An unusual stranding took place this week off the east coast of Scotland. After the pilot whale and minke whale live strandings earlier in the week, Scottish cetacean enthusiasts will be interested to hear that the body of a pygmy sperm whale was discovered off the Banffshire coast.
This species is only very rarely sighted at sea but it is known to frequent British waters. The last time this species was sighted alive was in 2007, when a single animal was spotted off Shetland. Previously to this, single animals were seen in the North Sea in 1982 and off Flamborough Head, East Riding of Yorkshire in 1979.
Strandings are of particular interest in the case of species that are spotted so rarely as they can provide scientists with valuable data on distribution of these animals (where and when the animal stranded), what they feed (stomach contents) and potentially also conservation threats (cause of death).
Pygmy sperm whales are small cetaceans reaching up to 3 meters in length. Their head is large relative to their body length and they have a blowhole which is positionned to the front and the left of the head (both of these are characteristics of the sperm whale family). Their dorsal fin is very small.