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Rare whale find prompts research

THE DISCOVERY of a whale carcass on Fraser Island last week was originally thought to be a minke whale.

Government officers quickly discovered it was in fact a Cuvier’s Beaked Whale – one of only four discovered in the past 150 years by the Queensland Museum.

It is the first adult male of the species Queensland researchers have ever found and its discovery will enable them to uncover details about the elusive species.

Queensland Museum senior curator of vertebrae Steve Vandyck said the find would be used to write a research paper.

“Virtually nothing is known about these animals,” he said.

“Male Cuviers are very strange creatures.”

Queensland Museum staff and Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service officers raced against the clock on Monday to rescue the skeleton after staff were finally able to identify it.

“All we had was a few hours between high tide and low tide,” Mr Vandyck said.

The whale was originally reported to QPWS last Thursday.

A QPWS boat was used to transport the skeleton back to Hervey Bay before it was taken to Brisbane.

Mr Vandyck said the find was especially useful as there was minimal damage from sharks and other marine life.

He said the cause of death was likely due to disease.

“It was an old animal and we think it had some disease in the spine,” he said.

Male Cuvier’s beaked whales can reach up to 50 years of age.

Mr Vandyck said the skeleton will not immediately go on display to the public, but the strangeness of the find meant it was likely to be displayed in the future.

Cuvier’s Beaked Whales are one of 21 beaked whale species.

Little is known about the eating, breeding or migration patterns of the deep water species.

The Australian Department of Sustainability and Environment reported sightings and strandings of the species are rare on Australian coastlines.

The report said the species were very rarely spotted close to shore anywhere across the world.

Topics:  carcass, cuvier's beaked whale, fraser island, research, whale


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