Whale of a discovery - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Whale of a discovery

Kristi West Kristi West

By Duane Shimogawa - bio | email

KANEOHE (KHNL) - New findings into the killer whale that stranded itself and died on Kauai's south shore earlier this week.

It's already rare to find a killer whale in Hawaiian waters. Another surprise: researchers find out the stranded whale that died is not a female.

"We came across internal testes, so it was pretty obvious once we got in the body cavity that we were in fact, looking at a male, so I felt like an OB GYN, everybody, it's a boy," Hawaii Pacific University biologist Kristi West said.

HPU grad students are about to embark on a rare experience as well.

"The opportunity to work with larger whales doesn't come frequently and so it was an awesome experience and you can't set your mind up, like acknowledge what it's gonna look like, what it's going to be like," HPU grad student Whitney White said.

"The necropsy was kind of the fun part of that is maybe more glamorous side of it, but there's actually a lot of work that goes on afterwards behind the scenes, so we'll be here at this school doing a lot of work from this point forward," HPU grad student Jessica Aschettino said.

700 pounds of the whale's tissue was flown to Oahu and brought to HPU Friday. Some of it was also sent to the mainland for more tests.

"We've primarily looking to see if they look normal in size, do we see obvious infection going on," West said.

Scientists speculate that the whale may have suffered from a disease.

"But when you have an animal that is so high on the food chain, an orca eats other mammals, so they tend to build up toxicants in their blubber over time," HPU toxicologist Brenda Jensen said.

An 18-foot discovery researchers hope will lead to other findings into this sad, but rare event.

There's still no obvious signs of why the whale died. Twhey are examining its tooth to determine its age.

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