A sperm whale that per.ished after being stranded in the Thames Estuary had no evidence of recent feeding. Scientists examined his 12.44m bones and discovered that his stomach was empty when he breathed his final breath. The absence of squid beaks, the sperm whale’s principal diet, indicates that the animal has been away from its typical home for some time.
Over the weekend, the marine animal per.ished in the Swale tidal canal in Kent, far from the deep seas where marine animals are regularly found. It had been unable to flee for three days after being discovered on Thursday morning, raising worries that it may become stuck on mudflats at low tide.
The team from the Zoological Society of London’s Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme (CSIP) worked through the night performing dissection and collecting tissue samples for subsequent study. The researchers also discovered that the adult male animal had not consumed any marine debris or plastics, as some had suspected.
‘The findings are consistent with a live stranding of an out of habitat individual,’ said project manager Rob Deaville. Sperm whales are generally located in considerably deeper waters, and the southern North Sea is an unusual location for the species since they are unable to eat there.’
‘Sperm whales had previously been observed stranded in south-east England, including a very similar example in February 2014 in Kent. That is the significance of monitoring programs such as the CSIP. With 30 years of data, we can now obtain meaningful insight into the overall health of the maritime ecosystem and the very spectacular biodiversity present along UK borders.’
The world’s largest predator, the sperm whale, can dive deeper than any other creature, reaching depths exceeding 2,000 meters. Its cry may be heard at 220 dB. This is the latest in a series of enormous marine animals to enter the Thames Estuary in the previous 18 months.
Benny the beluga whale was seen in Gravesend, Kent, in September 2018 and remained in the seas for months before disappearing. Hessy the Humpback made news across the world in October by swimming up the River Thames as far as Gravesend in Kent.