The whale was small for an orca, and may have been malnourished.

Autopsy Planned As Killer Whale Washes Up On Irish Beach

Scientists will conduct an autopsy later today on a killer whale that washed ashore on a beach in Ireland, in an effort to determine what caused the death of the unfortunate orca.

The whale, a female, was found on the beach at Saleen, in Co. Waterford, on Friday, according to the Independent. Measuring just 16-feet-long, the killer whale was a small specimen, and the cause of its death remains a mystery. In a statement on their website, the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) posited that the whale’s untimely demise may be explained by its dentition.

“The animal was in very fresh condition and all her teeth were very worn — this may have resulted in her death perhaps from malnutrition or infection,” they noted.

Researchers have noted a surge in whale strandings this year, with 32 instances reported over the month of January, effecting nine different whale species, according to the Irish Mirror. That number is double the average for the last five years, an uptick that the IWDG asserts can be explained by a variety of factors, including shifting wind patterns and the possibility that the whales are being accidentally caught in trawler nets.

“IWDG is concerned that mass strandings of beaked whales have previously been associated with naval exercises and our attention was drawn to newspaper reports of a major naval search (presumably using low and/or mid frequency active sonar) west of Scotland for an unidentified submarine…As is too often the case, we have no cause of death for any of these strandings and so cannot say for certain why they died.”

Earlier this week, a killer whale belonging to the British Isles’ only resident pod was spotted with a wound on its tail fluke that was almost certainly inflicted by a large shark. As the Inquisitr previously noted, researchers fear for the survival of the group, as the whales have failed to produce any offspring since they were first studied.

The stranding marks the 15th time a killer whale has washed ashore in Ireland, with the most recent incident taking place in October of 2010. The Galway Mayo Institute of Technology transported the orca to their facilities for the postmortem. The IWDG, meanwhile, hopes that the killer whale’s skeleton will be preserved and displayed locally following the autopsy.

[Image: Patrick Browne via the Irish Mirror]

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