South Dakota Tech grad student finds rare whale

September 15, 2004

Maggie Hart, a South Dakota School of Mines and Technology paleontology student, recently found a rare, beaked whale that washed ashore on St. Catherine's Island off the coast of Georgia.

At the time of her discovery in late July, Hart, a master's degree candidate from Brea, Calif., was working on the St. Catherine's Island Sea Turtle Conservation Program. In her studies of sea turtles, Hart is collaborating with Mike Knell of Council Bluffs, Iowa. Knell also is a Tech paleontology graduate student. Their work augments studies of fossil sea turtles found in South Dakota.

Hart measured the 13-foot whale, photographed it and collected its skull for identification by Dr. James Mead at The Smithsonian Institution's Museum of Natural History. He identified it as a Sowerby's beaked whale, probably a yearling female. The Smithsonian will retain the whale's skull for confirmation and to serve as a voucher specimen for this rare species' distribution.

Almost nothing is known about the natural history of the Sowerby's beaked whale. They reach a length of approximately 18 feet long, travel in pods of up to 10 and presumably eat small fish and squid.

Sowerbys are the most northerly distributed beaked whale, living in the North Atlantic, from Massachusetts to Labrador, eastward to Iceland, the British Isles and western Europe. This is only the thirteenth Sowerby's stranding documented in the western Atlantic. Prior to this, a stranding on the Gulf Coast of Florida was the only sighting in the temperate western Atlantic.

The St. Catherine's Island Sea Turtle Conservation Program is an example of Tech students combining classroom and real-world experiences to add to the body of scientific knowledge.
-end-


South Dakota School of Mines and Technology

Related Sea Turtles Articles from Brightsurf:

Wonders of animal migration: How sea turtles find small, isolated islands
One of Charles Darwin's long-standing questions on how turtles find their way to islands has been answered thanks to a pioneering study by scientists.

Sea turtles' impressive navigation feats rely on surprisingly crude 'map'
Since the time of Charles Darwin, scientists have marvelled at sea turtles' impressive ability to make their way--often over thousands of kilometers--through the open ocean and back to the very places where they themselves hatched years before.

Study evaluates stress level of rehabilitated sea turtles during transport
A new study co-authored by six scientists with the New England Aquarium has found that rehabilitated Kemp's ridley and loggerhead sea turtles experience a substantial stress response when transported to release locations in the southern United States but that the turtles remained physically stable and ready for release.

World's most complete health analysis of nesting sea turtles conducted in Florida
The most comprehensive health assessment for a green turtle rookery in the world to date is providing critical insights into various aspects of physiology, biology, and herpesvirus epidemiology of this nesting population.

Loggerhead sea turtles host diverse community of miniature organisms
An international team led by Florida State University researchers found that more than double the number of organisms than previously observed live on the shells of these oceanic reptiles, raising important questions about loggerhead sea turtle ecology and conservation.

Sea otters, opossums and the surprising ways pathogens move from land to sea
A parasite known only to be hosted in North America by the Virginia opossum is infecting sea otters along the West Coast.

Sea turtles have a deadly attraction to stinky plastic
Sea turtles around the world are threatened by marine plastic debris, mostly through ingestion and entanglement.

Why do sea turtles eat ocean plastics? New research points to smell
The findings are the first demonstration that the smell of ocean plastics causes animals to eat them.

UCF study: Sea level rise impacts to Canaveral sea turtle nests will be substantial
The study examined loggerhead and green sea turtle nests to predict beach habitat loss at four national seashores by the year 2100.

Monogamous female sea turtles? Yes, thanks to sperm storage
Female sea turtles mate multiply to ensure fertilization. A study of nesting loggerhead female sea turtles in southwest Florida used genotyping to uncover how many fathers were represented in their nests.

Read More: Sea Turtles News and Sea Turtles Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.