Tag Archives: Humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae)

Humpback, minke or fin? Identifying the whale stranded on the Kent coast | Cetacean Stranding Investigation Programme

This week Rebecca Lyal, our Cetacean Strandings Support Officer, reports on one of the latest whale strandings to receive media attention:

The first report I received of the phenomenal sea creature that had stranded in Kent was a post-it note left on my desk saying ‘Humpback whale, Kent’. My phone and inbox then buzzed with updates and enquiries from colleagues and news stations about an 11 metre whale that had washed up on the beach at Botany Bay near Margate. A characterless Wednesday morning had been transformed into a blizzard of curiosity that surrounded the seas’ most recent lost property. But this wasn’t a humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae), nor was it a minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) as was widely reported; it was in fact a fin whale (B. physalas).

11m long black whale, with white underside, stranded on beach, with mouth open. Long hairs of filter feeding apparatus visible.

Mistaken for a humpback whale, then a minke whale, this stranded fin whale was discovered on 14 October 2015. Credit: Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA).

The post mortem summary that was released by Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme (CSIP) partner the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) reported that the whale had damage consistent with a ship strike, due to the parallel linear cuts and a pale appearance to the body that indicated the animal had lost a significant amount of blood from its wounds. But why was there confusion with the identification? Let’s find out…

[Warning: the next image in the post shows the damage to the fin whale’s body]

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