NZ and Tasmanian cetacean strandings (Part I)


Nov 8, 2003
Ed: Feb 2008. Many of the earlier images in this particular thread have been lost, and probably never will be relocated for the purposes of reposting. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.

2 strandings of whales and dolphins in Tasmania:


and one in NZ:


are mystifying experts:


A squid connection (from second link):

That leaves prey movements. Pilot whales normally feed in the deep ocean on squid and fish.

Squid specialist Dr George Jackson, of the University of Tasmania, said there had been no known mass spawning locally that might have drawn whales into shore.

and some speculation:


and a transcript:

JOCELYN NETTLEFOLD: The weather appears to be central to the stranding cycle.

Every decade or so, atmospheric changes bring cooler sub-Antarctic waters further north.

Those waters are rich in squid and fish - the favoured prey of whales and dolphins - so, naturally, the mammals follow their food source, meaning that a lot more of them are spotted around Australia's coastline.

[edit: Ooops missed off the link (or accidentally removed it) - its:


and annotingly truncated mention of squid beaks:

PROFESSOR MARK HINDELL, UNIVERSITY OF TASMANIA: So what's the biggest beak we've ever got from one of these sperm whale stomachs?

DR KAREN EVANS: One of the southern Antarctic species gets up to --

JOCELYN NETTLEFOLD: By analysing the stomach contents from dead whales and working with climatologists, these zoologists have established a pattern of whale strandings around Tasmania.

but as there are more intersting developments below.... ]

So what are the squiddly implications?
Emps, another sperm whale stranded just a few km from here yesterday morn, though no pics in the press (yet); I'm trying to get out there this afternoon to do the stomach contents.

"10-metre sperm whale beaches near Auckland
01 December 2004

A 10-metre sperm whale was found stranded and dead yesterday on an isolated beach between Karekare and Whatipu, west of Auckland.

Department of Conservation (DOC) spokeswoman Fiona Oliphant said it was in the same area where 12 sperm whales stranded a year ago, and was not connected with the pilot whale stranding at Opoutere, on the Coromendel Peninsula.

DOC staff planned to pull the whale up the beach at low tide last night and bury it today."
Not sure what the squiddly implications are, but I have to say I've been trying several nights a week since July to catch juvenile Nototodarus and have seen nary a one :frown: (so if my messages get sillier it's cos I'm :sleeping: ) I've also had myself and half our dept looking for Sepioloidea eggs for Steve (bet you thought I'd forgotten!!! :biggrin2: ) with about the same amount of success!

Normally by this time of year we'd have several batches of eggs and I should've seen squid under jetty lights etc from July onwards :cry: :cry:

So in my humble opinion something's different this year. We're also losing Yellow Eyed Penguin Chicks to Avian Diptheria (over 50% of this years hatchlings :cry: :cry: :cry: )

Sadly (& tiredly)

Jean said:
Not sure what the squiddly implications are, but I have to say I've been trying several nights a week since July to catch juvenile Nototodarus and have seen nary a one :frown: (so if my messages get sillier it's cos I'm :sleeping: ) I've also had myself and half our dept looking for Sepioloidea eggs for Steve (bet you thought I'd forgotten!!! :biggrin2: ) with about the same amount of success! J

I hadn't forgotten Jean, but I'd not brought it up seeing you were busy down there. Thanks for remembering.

Ahhhhh - the complete lack of squid in the oceans. This is something with which I am most familiar. It is extremely frustrating when having 'an expedition' and to not see a single animal! You begin to question your gear - something tried, tested and that has proven faithful - or worse still, your own competence. Add to this the woe of yet another reporter or camera, and you can second-guess the outcome of the story, and I'm getting tired of things ending the same-old way.

Things are not good out there, but this comes as no surprise! Keep on trying, that's all I can say, because the day you give up is the day they'll come in.
Thanks for the encouragement Steve! I needed it.

I probably have to stop for the meantime, as I have to finish the revisions to my thesis (I was hoping to include some more validation trials darn it but time marches on) I'll have another go later.

One of the things that has stopped me also is ethics approval. Now that squid are legally defined as animals I have to have approval to hold them! (I didn't have to last time so I forgot to get it :oops: , it's a lengthy procedure....minimum of a month!) So I'll apply and get on with other stuff in the instead of sitting on the jetty til 2 or 3 am I'll be in front of the computer! .......oh well the dog will approve!

A very quick note; these are just the pleasant pics (I smell rather shocking); there'll be an update on the 'squid beaks from whale stomachs' in due course.

It was a 15.4m fully mature male; yes, we did get inside, although this one had a nasty habit of exploding ....



A few more of the jaw area (I've over 100 pics that I've not looked at yet, and nearly an hour of video).

A view a squid wouldn't be too keen on ... (the teeth are very worn on this old bull)

Very interesting texture within the mouth

No teeth (of consequence - they're tiny) in the upper jaw
... a wee update; the tooth wear is interesting! Obviously they use the teeth for something, unless they grind them while sleeping.

There were several thousand squid beaks in the stomach, and live parasitic worms (the whale had been dead for ~ 36 hrs, and had refused to budge from its place on the beach - being so heavy three separate wires broke as they tried to pull it up shore for burial). By necessity we had to autopsy it at ~ mid-water level.

Off for a vino and shower, not necessarily in that order.
Ok, now that I'm the right place, here are a couple of my photos from todays efforts... That's Steve on the far right.


This is the stomach laid out on the sand - at a 'safer' distance from the whale.

Totally amazing pics!!! I am in awe that we get to experience this first hand!!!

Jess was amazed at the size of this creature!!! And the teeth!!

Just a few more (there are many).

Anyone want to guess whether this level of enamel wear would cause ache?


I'm amazed by the level of enamel wear ... can you tell?

And the skin texture of the oral face of the lower jaw is amazing.
That enamel wear is incredible! Has that whale been chewing rocks???? Any guesses as to an age for the whale? Steve Dawson has a number of teeth that he's used for aging, but I'm not sure there's enough tooth there!

I am so kicking myself Jean; I looked at those flukes and saw all sorts of gobble marks out of them - I thought of taking a pick and then I saw also the wear caused by the rope when hauling (attempting to at least) the thing up the beach. I didn't have the common sense to take fluke pics!! Never thought that others could use these images (other than just to look at).

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