New whale species identified in Ireland for the first time

New whale species identified in Ireland for the first time

A NEW whale species has been identified in Ireland for the first time ever, the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) has confirmed.

The identification comes after a live stranded whale was reported to the IWDG in Glengariff, Cork on 1 May. The animal managed to re-float itself before members of the IWDG Live Stranding Network arrived to the scene, but it was washed up dead the following day.

The species has now been identified as a Dwarf Sperm Whale, a species which has previously never been recorded in Ireland.

During the postmortem, the whale was identified as a female measuring 2.25 meters and was pregnant with a foetus measuring 315mm. Prey remains including squid beaks were also found in its stomach which was recovered together with the whole intestine for further analysis.

The skeleton will be prepared by the IWDG and donated to the National Museum of Ireland (Natural History) to be preserved by the state.

There were ten previous strandings of pygmy sperm whales (Kogia breviceps) recorded in Ireland, and no sightings, making this species one of the rarest recorded. Dwarf sperm whales are thought to occur closer to shore than pygmy sperm whales as they inhabit the continental shelf edge and slope. Pygmy sperm whales typically inhabit oceanic waters to the west of the continental shelf.

There is only one record of dwarf sperm whale in the UK – a sighting and photograph of one off Cornwall in October 2011 which was never seen again.