Conjoined whale calves were discovered by scientists in Scammon’s Lagoon, Baja, California. Although the calves did not survive, the discovery was quite significant. Conjoined fin, minke, and sei whales, have been documented. However, the recently discovered calves could be the first documented case of conjoined gray whale calves.
Alisa Schulman-Janiger, with the American Cetacean Society, said the calves were underdeveloped and were likely miscarried. Healthy gray whale calves are usually 12 to 16 feet at birth. The whales discovered in Scammon’s Lagoon were approximately seven feet long.
The conjoined whales’ carcass was removed from the lagoon and will be used for further research.
As reported by National Geographic, mature gray whales can grow up to 50 feet long and weigh up to 40 tons. Although they were previous listed as an endangered species, the whales are now protected by international law. As their population has steadily increased, their protection status was upgraded to “recovered” in 1994. The current Pacific gray whale population is estimated to be around 21,000.
The gray whale’s appearance is distinct, as they are often covered in barnacles and other organisms. The organisms and parasites create a crusty rock-like coating on the whales’ skin.
Gray whales spend the summer in the waters around Alaska. In the winter, they swim more than 12,000 miles along the west coast of North America. They usually spend the winter along the coast of Mexico, where they breed.
Grind TV reports that the whales often give birth and nurse their young in lagoons along the southern west coast. A majority of the calves are born in December and January. When their calves are strong enough, the whales return to the Bering and Chukchi seas.
Although the condition of the conjoined whale calves’ mother is unknown, researchers are concerned that she may have died during the complicated birth.
[Image via Flickr]