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Sperm Whale found dead in Gulf of Maine, Museum hopes to display it June 8, 2006

Posted by Administrator in Whales.

A 46 foot Sperm Whale (Physeter macrocephalus) was found in the Gulf of Maine last week. Marine Biologists were because Sperm Whales are rare, especially in the waters around Maine.

Scientists say the leviathan of a whale had been dead for around a month when the first found it.

The whale was spotted near Boothbay Harbor, off of Outer Heron Island. Scientists drove a boat out to it, and tied a rope around the jaw of the whale to tow it to shore.

The whale has been residing on Trenton Beach for dissection and cleaning. Researchers from Allied Whales are over viewing the project.

The whale has been dead for too long, thus too decomposed, to do an autopsy. So the researchers are, in stead, taking bone samples and measurements for analyses.

This incident provides a rare opportunity for scientists to study a Sperm Whale up close. Since they are deep diving whales, Sperm Whales are rather elusive and hard to study. Since they have a specimen, be it only a skeleton, they are very lucky indeed.

Even though the whale has been decomposing for some time, scientists hope that the hide will reveal some important information about the species. They also hope that they might be able to salvage some of the whales oil, produced by the spermaceti organ.

The researchers from Allied Whales think this whale to be about 20-30 years old. Since Sperm Whales have a life span of about 60 years, this one was relatively young.

It is also a mystery how it died. A lot of large whales get tangled in fishing line and drown, but is relatively rare amongst Sperm Whales. They have been recorded colliding with ships, so that's another scenario that the researchers are considering.

The curator for the Bar Harbor Whale Museum hopes the museum will be able to display the gigantic skeleton once the scientists have finished studying it and cleaning it.

Boston.com, WCSH6, Bangordailynews.com