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First Stranding of Cuvier's Beaked Whale (Ziphius cavirostris) on the Danish North Sea Coast

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  • Aage Kristian Olsen Alstrup
  • Charlotte Bie Thostesen, Fisheries and Maritime Museum
  • ,
  • Peter Teglberg Madsen
  • Heidi Huus Petersen, Tech Univ Denmark, Technical University of Denmark, Ctr Diagnost
  • ,
  • Tim Kare Jensen, Tech Univ Denmark, Technical University of Denmark, Ctr Diagnost
  • ,
  • Morten Tange Olsen, Univ Copenhagen, University of Copenhagen, Sect Evolutionary Genom, Globe Inst
  • ,
  • Carl Chr Kinze, Cetacean Atlas of Denmark

Herein, the biometrics, body condition, and veterinary findings from the first stranding of a Cuvier's beaked whale (Ziphius cavirostris; Cuvier, 1823) in Denmark are described. It was an adult male with a single tooth (the right was missing). The animal appeared to be well fed and had a body length of 581 cm and a total weight of approximately 2,500 kg. During dissection, we recorded the mass of the bones, blubber, muscle, and organs, which to our knowledge are the first to be published for this species. The back was covered with linear, parallel seaming likely caused by male male competition. In addition, scattered scars were found in the skin derived from cookiecutter shark (Isistius brasiliensis) bites. Multiple small abscesses were found in the blubber, probably due to parasites. Histopathologically, the lungs were characterized by mild purulent pneumonia, and the liver revealed hepatic steatosis. Clostridium sardiniensis and Paeniclostridium sordellii were observed in the lungs and liver. The gastrointestinal tract contained only traces of food and two smaller pieces of plastic in the first stomach chamber. Nematode parasites were found in the intestines. Sexual organs indicated full maturity. Both kidneys showed moderate infestation, with the nematode Crassicauda crassicauda forming calcified granulomas. The exact cause of death was unknown, but the whale was ill with purulent pneumonia and an agonal septicemia. We did not find any evidence of gas or fat emboli. Furthermore, it can be speculated that storms or noise exposure may have led the whale astray, eventually causing its stranding within the so-called "North Sea Trap." The stranding reported contributed to a pattern of increased Cuvier's beaked whale strandings in the North Sea area, suggesting a recent northerly shift of its range, perhaps due to the climate-induced range shift of its squid prey.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAquatic Mammals
Pages (from-to)303-310
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - May 2021

    Research areas

  • stranding, necropsy, North Sea Trap, Cuvier's beaked whale, Ziphius cavirostris

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