Whale # 2 stomach content analysis

Steve O'Shea

TONMO Supporter
Staff member
Nov 19, 2002
This specimen, 'Whale # 2" is actually 'Whale # 8' [Department of Conservation #] of the pod that stranded on Karikari Beach, West Coast, Auckland on 16 November 2003. [sampled on 18 Nov 2003]

I don't know if this picture is of the whale in question, but it is one of the 13 that stranded last year.


I've only just completed identification of these squid beaks, and like 'Whale # 1', as far as I know (to the best of my efforts), every squid beak in the stomach was retained (this time the number of lower beaks exceeds that of the uppers). The identifications must be treated as provisional, although I only expect (if any changes are to occur) that 1 or 2 species might change (not so much the genera).

If you like you can look at the squid composition of this whale, compare it to that of the 1st, and try and make some sense out of the jigsaw (again based on what we know of the New Zealand and adjacent water mass squid faunas). I've not provided lower rostral lengths for the beaks, as I've yet to measure them.

Identifications are based on lower beaks.

Here goes:
Whale # 2, male, length to come, stranded 16 November 2003, Karikari Beach (DOC Whale # 8 ) [sampled on 18 Nov 2003]
Number of upper beaks: 108
Number of lower beaks: 129

Lower beak-determined squid composition in diet of Sperm Whale # 2
Architeuthis dux: 2
Taningia danae: 1
Pholidoteuthis boschmai: 4
Lepidoteuthis grimaldii: 6
Chiroteuthis sp.: 3
Moroteuthis ingens: 26
Moroteuthis robsoni: 7
Histioteuthis cf. eltaninae: 30
Histioteuthis miranda: 27
Histioteuthis Type A5 (sensu Clarke): 9
Megalocranchia sp.: 8
Teuthowenia sp.: 5
Cranchiid sp. 1: 1

Again, much more could be said.

I'll bite... the species distribution in Whale 2 is nothing like that in Whale 1.

Now for hypotheses as to why:

1) The first whale had broken teeth and could only catch certain species
2) The whales had different food preferences (Whale #1 liked different squid tastes than Whale #2)
3) The whales had been hunting in different places with different squid populations and it is only coincidence they had stranded together.

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Re: Wow

snafflehound@work said:
1) The first whale had broken teeth and could only catch certain species
3) The whales had been hunting in different places with different squid populations and it is only coincidence they had stranded together.

I like these two. Whale # 1 had a number of large Antarctic squid in the stomach, in addition to very few local squid (too few one might think to sustain that bulk); with broken teeth it could well have been limited in what or how it ate. Whale # 2 had local squid, so appears to have been feeding in local waters [and regurgitated all Antarctic squid beaks]. Nevertheless, Whale # 2 had very few beaks in its stomach, so unless it also had just regurgitated then the number of squid is unlikely to support an animal of this size.

At this very early stage I am inclined to believe that the reason(s) for each of the two strandings, despite their being very close together in space and time, differ. There are many more whales to add yet ... and a lot to take into consideration. When I get the LRL's for the Architeuthis online, and a few pics, you'll be surprised to see that the squid were not that large.
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#3 looks closer to the beak distribution of #2 than #1. So is #1 an outlier because of the broken teeth, because it had just shown up after hunting in the Antarctic, or a combination, or something else?

Doesn't Ellis have something in Monsters of the Sea about a whale that had a malformed or missing lower jaw but that still had a stomach full of Architeuthis beaks?
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There's a lot of debate out there regarding how a sperm whale eats, and whether it uses teeth at all (seeing most of the squid recovered from the stomachs [when present] are intact [without tooth marks]). None of the sperm whale stomachs that I've looked at has had a squid within it - all have been completely digested.

I've seen completely malformed jaws on stranded NZ specimens, but I'm afraid I haven't a single photograph (it's always the way isn't it).

It is a real challenge, figuring out how these animals eat, how often they eat, what depth they dive to, how many squid they eat in a day, how often they regurgitate their stomachs .... Life would be boring if we didn't have challenges.
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M, they're FANTASTIC! Where did you get them??? Where are they taken?? It is P. macrocephalus isn't it (Sperm Whale)? I've seen nothing like this before - certainly clamping down on that fish with those teeth. The amazing thing is I haven't seen as much as a scale, bone or otolith of any fish in any of the stomachs thus far!!
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Not to be a pessimist, but don't those look kinda fake? Like in the first one, the fish is so squarely set in the dead middle of the picture at exactly the perfect angle to get a square shot of the entire fish body. I don't know much about whales or photography, but my small experience in fish leads me to say that fish rarely end up perfectly set square for a picture. And I mean, a sperm whale upside down at the surface still trying to kill and consume a fish?!?!?! Doesn't that seem a little odd? (Again, I have no experience in whale behaviour. I am just recording my gut reactions in hopes of starting a conversation so that I may learn the truth.) I guess it could just be that the camera is really really zoomed in to capture these shots, and thats why the picture ends up looking pixel-ly and fake.

Someone please tell me that these are real, cause if they are thats AWESOME!

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Holy cow. Those pictures are incredible. What detail: fish's blood running out the gills onto whale's jaw; green stuff around the whale's mouth (what is it?) and some nasty headwounds on Physeter. These also make me hopeful about seeing photos of sperm whales with giant teuthids in their jaws. The large crater outside the margin of the whale's upper "lip" is pretty ghastly. Did some Messie go down well-fed?


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Clem said:
... These also make me hopeful about seeing photos of sperm whales with giant teuthids in their jaws.

They exist, but they haven't been made public domain (there's one floating around out there with an Archi tentacle dragging behind the whale's jaw, taken just below the surface in crystal clear water - it's some 3 or 4 years ago now; one I have here has the whale stealing squid from baited camera drops ... but I cannot post it, real sorry).

Now I'm going to bite my tongue ... and say no more.
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