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Scientists Learning From Orca That Washed Ashore in Marin

| November 29, 2011
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Image of an orca that washed ashore in Marin last week. Photo by Richard James – coastodian.org

Image of an orca that washed ashore in Marin last week. Photo by Richard James – coastodian.org

Scientists are starting to study tissues of an 18 foot orca, or killer whale, that washed up along Marin’s coastline last week.

Jim Oswald with the Marine Mammal Center says it’s rare for a male juvenille for this to be found in local waters. He says right now there are many unknowns.

“What’s really interesting about this orca carcass is that we don’t see too many of those, it’s rare,” he says. “So all the information, the DNA they can get from the skin and tissue samples, all of that will help studying future species of Orcas. There’s much to learn from the creature.”

Oswald says there was trauma to the body and blowhole of the animal. He says it’s unclear if the injuries came from a ship strike and whether they happened before or after the animal died.

Oswald says scientists have collected samples of the blubber, dorsal fin and skull. He says they’re also looking at the contents of the whale’s stomach to see if it may have ingested plastic.

The Marine Mammal Center is working with scientists at the California Academy of Sciences.

The orca’s carcass was expected to return to sea with the tides.

You can see more images of the orca, including a video, by Richard James from the blog Coastodian.org.

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About the Author ()

Rachel Dornhelm got her start in radio at WHYY. After anthropology graduate school, Rachel lived in Uzbekistan working with youth near the drying Aral Sea. Rachel returned to radio full-time in 2001. Her work has appeared on WNYC, WBUR, Marketplace, NPR news magazines and KQED. Reach Rachel Dornhelm at rdornhelm@kqed.org.

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