VideoThe dead fin whale that was discovered on the bow of a ship in the port of Terneuzen on Tuesday was probably still alive when the animal was struck. The mammal of about 15 meters has eaten just before death. That is the conclusion of Utrecht University, which conducted an investigation into the cause of death.
Guido van der Heijden
“We found undigested food in the gullet of the fin whale, a kind of planktonic crustacean, we call it krill,” says Lonneke IJsseldijk, biologist at Utrecht University. “The fact that the krill did not end up in the stomach of the fin whale indicates that it was probably eaten just before or during its death. That indicates that the fin whale probably wasn’t sick.”
The fin whale was found on the bulb of the ship, which is the lower part of the bow. At the spot where the fin whale came into contact with the ship, the researchers found a large subcutaneous hemorrhage. “That is a sign that the fin whale was still alive when it came into contact with the ship,” said IJsseldijk.
The fin whale is a protected species. According to IJsseldijk, shipping is one of the biggest threats to the animal.
Meanwhile, the fin whale is being cut into pieces with sharp knives on the quay with great public interest. An excavator lifts pieces of meat or deposits organs on the quay.
“It remains special when we have to work with the cutting team,” says Pepijn Kamminga of the Leiden museum and research center Naturalis. “Earlier this year a sperm whale on Vlieland and now the fin whale in Terneuzen. The skull will go to our collection for research.”
The fin whale that ended up on the bow of a ship in the locks of Terneuzen last weekend, is not the largest specimen, according to Kamminga – collection manager for mammals at Naturalis. “The fin whale is the second largest species there is. The largest can grow up to 27 meters in length. The blue whale is getting even bigger.”
Willem van der Heiden from Terneuzen takes pictures from behind the fences. He would like to get a piece of whale for his collection. “Just a little bit, it doesn’t matter what. Then I keep that in alcohol.”
The fin whale is a protected species and possessing even the tiniest bits is illegal unless you have the paperwork for it
Van der Heiden’s request is not very strange. “We get questions like that every time,” says Lonneke IJsseldijk, principal researcher on behalf of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Utrecht. “Very often people want to have a piece. The fin whale is a protected species and possessing even the tiniest bits is illegal unless you have the paperwork for it.”
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