Short-finned pilot whale first of kind in British waters

  • In Business
  • 2023-01-27 08:37:17Z
  • By BBC
stranded whale
stranded whale  

A whale found stranded on a Welsh beach more than a decade ago has been identified as the first of its kind ever found in British waters.

Short-finned pilot whales are usually found in tropical to warm temperate seas and not in northern Europe.

Researchers say it adds to growing evidence of aquatic mammals being affected by climate change.

The whale stranded at Hazelbeach near Neyland, Pembrokeshire, on 1 March, 2012.

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It was examined by the Defra and the Welsh government-funded Cetacean Investigation Programme (CSIP) and was initially identified as a long-finned pilot whale, globicephala melas, which are commonly found in British waters and strand frequently.

However, fresh analysis of its skull and teeth, described by scientists in a newly published article in the journal Mammal Communications, confirmed it was a short-finned pilot whale - the first found in British waters.

whale skull
whale skull  

Andrew Kitchener, principal curator of vertebrates at National Museums Scotland, where the whale's skull is now held, said: "This is one of a growing number of examples in our collection going back to the 1980s of what we would normally think of as warm-water species being found for the first time in British waters.

"Others include striped dolphins, pygmy sperm whales and a Fraser's dolphin.

"It's important to develop our understanding of changing marine populations and their distributions, and the existence of collections and research facilities such as ours are crucial to building that understanding over time."

Mr Kitchener added that the discovery means it can no longer be assumed that every stranded pilot whale in Britain is a long-finned pilot whale.

Short-finned pilot whale
Short-finned pilot whale  

Short-finned pilot whales and long-finned pilot whales are similar, and difficult to tell apart at sea.

Rob Deaville of the Institute of Zoology in London, where CSIP is based, was part of the team involved in the 2012 examination.

He said: "The identification of this short-finned pilot whale in UK waters adds to the growing evidence of a clear trend of cetacean life being affected by climate change, part of a wider impact across our seas and oceans."


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