Saturday, July 17, 2010

True's Beaked Whale Beached in NJ

A True's beaked whale washed up on the Jersey shore yesterday. There is not too much known about the medium sized mammal, inasmuch as it is a rare whale. Growing to length of 17 feet or so, it looks a bit like a dolphin. It has a fusiform body, bulbous in the middle with two tapered ends. The beak is a distinguishing feature and it is well seen in the skeletal form.

Males have two teeth at the end of the beak. Traveling in small groups, the whales are deep sea divers. Squid is the mainstay of the True's beaked whale's diet.

This creature lives in two locations and the two populations may be genetically distinct. The whale is found in the northern hemisphere, living in the Atlantic Ocean in an area extending from Nova Scotia to Ireland and as far south as Florida. The other locale is in the southern hemisphere, in the Indian Ocean, with the habitat extending form South Africa to Australia.

Frederick True (1858-1914) was the first curator of biology at the United States National Museum (later named the Smithsonian). His specialty was cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) and the beaked whale was named after him.

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