Highlands & Islands

Scots scientists probe mass sperm whale stranding

Sperm whales stranding Image copyright Steve Geelhoed
Image caption Twelve sperm whales got into difficulty last week

Scottish-based scientists have been helping to investigate the cause of one Europe's largest sperm whale stranding events.

Twelve whales became stranded on the Wadden Islands off the coasts of the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark last week.

Inverness-based Dr Andrew Brownlow has been among the scientists to assist with post mortems on five that died.

He has been working with experts from the Netherlands and Belgium.

Dr Brownlow and the other Scottish-based scientists involved are from Scotland's Rural College's Scottish Marine Stranding Scheme.

They responded to a call for assistance in examining the large whales before their internal organs were crushed and damaged by the weight of the whales' bodies.

'Potential causes'

Dr Brownlow said: "The final results are pending and will be released in time.

"However, we have already been able to rule out many potential causes for the stranding.

"These animals were in good body condition but in the process of stranding became crushed under their own weight, which sadly led to their death."

He added: "We took samples which will be analysed and for their diet, life history and contaminant burden which will also help us understand what may have happened to these whales."

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