CWHC performs necropsy on rare whale at AVC

On December 11, pathologists, students, and staff from the CWHC and AVC performed a necropsy on a rare Cuvier’s Beaked whale in the AVC postmortem laboratory. The adult, male whale had been found dead on Dec. 9 on the Acadian Peninsula of New Brunswick, and was delivered to the CWHC by officers from Fisheries & Oceans Canada.

Officers from Fisheries and Oceans Canada delivering a Cuvier’s beaked whale from New Brunswick to the AVC postmortem laboratory. (Photo credit: Darlene Weeks).

It weighed nearly 5300 lbs and measured 5.5 m in length, making it possibly the largest animal that has ever come to the college. This is the second Cuvier’s beaked whale to have come to our diagnostic lab. These whales are the deepest diving mammals in the world, recorded at depths of up to 3000 m, and are known to lower their heart beat to one beat per five-minute period to accomplish such a feat. The necropsy and clean-up took approximately 7 hours. Accompanying the CWHC / AVC team was NB Museum curator and longtime CWHC collaborator, Don McAlpine, who is very interested in this species as an accidental or rare visitor to our region.  A definitive cause of death has not yet been determined, but Dr. Laura Bourque (lead pathologist on the case) and pathology resident Dr. Nicolas Decelles are working on histology and further testing.

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