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Entering the Belly of the Whale

Entering the Belly of the Whale 

Pictured left-to-right: Liz Wheeler, Research Associate at The Marine Mammal Center, and Dr. Frances Gulland, Dir. of Veterinary Science at The Marine Mammal Center, take measurements of the Gray whale carcass before beginning necrospy.
© The Marine Mammal Center



Earth Day, April 22, 2010

"Call me Ishmael" begins one of the most famous lines in literature in the classic tale of Moby Dick. In a timely nod to Earth Day, The Marine Mammal Center saw another whale story begin to unfold right here in the Bay Area. On April 20, the Center responded to reports that a 37-foot-long, male Gray whale carcass was floating in the San Francisco Bay between Fort Mason and Alcatraz.

At the Center's request, the U.S. Coast Guard towed the carcass to a beach near the Richmond Bridge to enable Center researchers to perform a necropsy on April 21. The purpose of a necropsy is to gather information about the whale and to try to determine its cause of death.

“marine © The Marine Mammal Center

On April 22, a necropsy was completed, and samples were sent to the lab. We are now waiting on toxicology results to see if any clue will be given as to the cause of death. This process may take several months.

During the necropsy, researchers noted that the whale was malnourished, but that there were no external signs of trauma. Upon examination of the whale's stomach, researchers found evidence of trash including a water bottle cap and other plastic particles.

This finding of trash deep inside the belly of a whale serves as an Earth Day reminder that we are all connected to the ocean. By helping to reduce our use of plastics and to properly dispose of those plastics, we can indeed make a difference in the health of the ocean and the creatures that live within its waters.  Learn more about how you can help and about The Marine Mammal Center's Save Our Seals. Save Ourselves campaign.


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