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NCCOS Scientists Assist in Necropsy of Deceased Minke Whale

Published on: 05/29/2024

Bonnie Ertel recording data and observations from Wayne McFee (photo credit: Colin Perkins-Taylor).

A 28-foot female common minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) stranded in the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge just north of Charleston, SC. NCCOS scientists assisted the Lowcountry Marine Mammal Network with the necropsy (autopsy of an animal) of this marine mammal. Minke whales are the smallest species of baleen whales and are not endangered or threatened, but they are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Since 2017, minke whales have experienced increased rates of mortality along the Atlantic coast; this occurrence has been declared an Unusual Mortality Event (UME) with 168 animals dying during this time-period. A large number of mortalities has been attributed to disease, in particular brucellosis (Brucella ceti), which is a bacterial disease. The cause of death of this particular minke whale is unknown at this time. Observations and samples collected from this animal will inform scientists working with NOAA’s Working Group on Marine Mammal UMEs to better understand the stressors impacting the health of this species.

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