PINE KNOLL SHORES, CARTERET COUNTY - A whale that washed up onshore in Pine Knoll Shores has been identified as a Dwarf Sperm Whale. This is the smallest species of whale in the world and rarely spotted at sea.
Scientist Keith Rittmaster of the North Carolina Maritime Museum in Beaufort says most everything scientists know about the Dwarf Sperm Whale has been found out by studying ones that have washed ashore, like the one from this past weekend.
Rittmaster says it is hard to even determine how many Dwarf Sperms there are in the world, since they are hard to spot and definitively identify at sea. Dwarf Sperm Whales look very similar to Pygmy Sperm Whales, which are more common.
The whale that washed up near the Trinity Center off of Salter Path Road was 452 pounds and about 7.5 ft. Scientists quickly identified it as a fully grown adult male.
Rittmaster says the Dwarf Sperm live in deep water dozens of miles off the coast. He says scientists puzzle over how Sperm Whales, so recently dead, can make it all the way to shore.
The whale was necropsied, which is an autopsy performed on an animal. The cause of death is still unknown but will hopefully be determined when the results come in.
Scientists and volunteers from the NC Maritime Museum, Trinity Center, NC State University's Center for Marine Sciences and Technology, NC Division of Marine Fisheries, and Carteret Community College, UNC Wilmington participated also and two veterinary residents from NCSU College of Veterinary Medicine all helped with the necropsy.
The skeleton of the whale was buried near the Trinity Center under 3ft of sand. This will naturally decompose the whale.
The excavated bones are hoped to go on display at the Trinity Center, near where the whale was initially found. The center teaches area children about science, nature, and animals.
If you find a stranded animal, call The regional Marine Mammal Stranding Network reporting hotline at 252-241-5119.
State workers have buried a whale that washed up Saturday morning on a beach in Carteret County.
The whale washed up on the beach near the Trinity Center on Salter Path Road in Pine Knoll Shores.
State officials said the whale is a male dwarf sperm whale and weighed 480 pounds.
In two years, Trinity Center officials will dig up the skeleton and use it as part of their "Sound to Sea" environmental classes.