GEORGETOWN, S.C. (WBTW) – A pygmy sperm whale washed up on the shore of Huntington Beach State Park early Friday morning.
Marine biologists say the whale was already dead when it made it to shore. Pygmy sperm whales are the second most common marine strandings in South Carolina, the first being bottlenose dolphins. The state sees around four to six of these whales strand a year.
This particular whale was a male and fully grown at just over 11 feet long. Scientists don’t know how it died, but they say the cause could’ve been anything from disease to a predator or human interaction.
“We don’t know what causes these strandings,” said Rob Young, CCU professor of marine science and dean of CCU college of graduate studies and research. “When you have individuals that strand like this, something is usually wrong.
“They’re sick and dying,” he said. “They obviously don’t belong on the beach, so when they show up here something’s wrong.”
Scientists are planning to do a necropsy to find out how it died and to study its biology. They say pygmy sperm whales feed off-shore, so the only time researchers encounter the species are during strandings.
The average pygmy sperm whale is not much larger than many dolphins. They weigh about 700 to 1,000 pounds and grow to be about 11.5 feet, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.