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Necropsy indicates baby whale may have been suffering infection

  • JAMM AQUINOCTY - A stranded humpback whale calf struggles in the shallows near the beach on Monday, January 14, 2013 near Puuikena Peninsula in east Oahu.  Scientists are still miffed about why the calf, which was born this season and perhaps a few days old, got separated from its mother and stranded in the shallows.  (Jamm Aquino/The Honolulu Star-Advertiser).
    JAMM AQUINO
    CTY - A stranded humpback whale calf struggles in the shallows near the beach on Monday, January 14, 2013 near Puuikena Peninsula in east Oahu. Scientists are still miffed about why the calf, which was born this season and perhaps a few days old, got separated from its mother and stranded in the shallows. (Jamm Aquino/The Honolulu Star-Advertiser).

Preliminary necropsy findings on a humpback whale calf that died off an East Honolulu beach indicate the mammal may have been battling some sort of respiratory infection, according to one of the scientists at Hawaii Pacific University involved in the examination.

A team of biologists and students at HPU, as well as veterinarians from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, performed a necropsy Tuesday. The male humpback whale died at about 8:40 p.m. Monday in waters off Kawaikui Beach Park near Aina Haina.

Based on the size and healing of the umbilical region, the whale — 2,600 pounds and just under 15 feet long — was about 2 weeks to a month old, according to Kristi West, an associate biology professor who directs the university’s Marine Mammal Stranding Program, which works closely with NOAA. 

West said they found enlarged lymph nodes in the whale’s lungs, a sign that it possibly had an infection. The left lung also looked slightly abnormal. Samples will be sent to mainland laboratories for further testing to determine if the mammal had a specific bacteria or virus.

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