toothed whales


Philippines: A treasure lost before it was found
By Darrell D. Blatchley, 10th August 2014;

The word treasure draws different emotions and reactions from people. It could be images of a cave filled with rubies, diamonds and gold bars. Or it could be a dead whale on a beach.

This is that story.

On December 19, 2012, D’ Bone Collector Museum Inc. received a call from Maco, a small town in Compostela Valley province. Two large “dolphins” had stranded and needed help. As we rushed to the site, (it’s an hour and 30-minute drive from Davao City) a text came in saying one dolphin had died and that the other was still strong. “Release it” if it swims strong, we told them. At first the smaller one would not swim off until it nestled one last time against the larger “dolphin” then slowly, it swam away.

When we got there we saw that this was first, not a dolphin and; two, the smaller one was its baby. It had stayed with its mother until she died, and sensing her mother was dead, continued on without her. To say ‘small’ is an understatement. The baby was 8 feet long. The mother was 15 feet long. At first we thought it was a Blainville’s Beaked Whale (Mesoplodon densirostris). We loaded it and brought it to the Museum in Davao for further study as to the cause of death and preservation.

We arrived at the Museum at 9pm and took pictures of the whale and posted them on Facebook for other experts from around the world to help identify the whale as it was “different” than others we had found. There were things that were not “normal” and within 30 minutes, emails started flooding our inbox.

One expert in Norway said that it was most likely a Ginkgo-toothed Beaked Whale (Mesoplodon ginkgodens). A whale that has only stranded in the Philippines once and estimated 20 times worldwide. Immediately we knew we had something rare. With all whales and dolphins that come into the museum, we perform a necropsy to find the cause of death but also to collect biological specimens such as meat and internal organs for DNA and further studies.

We also do castings of the animal to show what they looked like alive.

When we opened the stomach the first thing we noticed was the heavy amount of parasitic worms. Parasites are found in all living animals though a healthy immune system keeps them in balance. If a whale or dolphin is sick or dehydrated, the parasites take over. Inside the stomach we found a two-feet nylon rope blocking the intestines and a piece of coal. Yes coal. It was the first time we had ever found coal in a whale. Coal, even though organic in nature, does not digest. It semi floats on the bottom of the ocean as a shrimp or squid would. The plastic nylon rope was ruled as the cause of death. But this whale’s story did not end there.

A large national paper did a story on the whale as a rare “Ginkgo-toothed Beaked Whale” dying due to plastic. The DNA results came back that it was NOT a Ginkgo-toothed Beaked Whale. It was listed under Unknown. To be Unknown is to be unnamed.

Inside the stomach two new species of parasitic worms were also discovered. So this whale was stumping the experts. The Expert from Norway again emailed and said it might be a Hotaula Beaked Whale (aka Derayinagala’s Beaked Whale). So DNA tests were run again to compare the species. They came back positive for that species. The Hotaula Beaked Whale up to this time was not a confirmed species, just a “rumored” new species as no complete animal had ever been found – just fragments, a broken skull here, a fin there. This was the first time this species of whale was seen in its complete form.

In 2013 it was listed as a new species of whale (Mesoplodon hotaula) from only eight ever found and the one from Davao being the only one complete at that time. She is now on display at the Museum. The only skeleton of her species in the world.

So “Treasure Lost Before it was Found”. The Davao Gulf had a new species of whale that was 15 feet long and weighed over 800 kilos. It died due to a plastic nylon rope that had been cut off and discarded. Did the baby survive? We don’t know. It was never reported that it restranded but that may just mean it didn’t strand again near humans.

An animal does not have to bring rubies or gold to be considered a treasure. The fact that the Davao Gulf is so blessed with so many species, some of them new, shows we have a treasure. Would one throw garbage on the Mona Lisa painting? The Davao Gulf is the Mona Lisa of Davao. Let us do our best to protect our treasures, lest we lose them before we even knew what we had.

Source: Mindanao Times


A 9.5 ft Pygmy Sperm Whale (Kogia breviceps). Upon necropsy, found to be pregnant. The mother had head trauma consistent with fishermen beating it as it struggled in the net. Realising it was not a shark, it was thrown back dead into the ocean. What a waste. Education is the key. It was not a targeted species and is protected.

Source: D’ Bone Collector Museum Facebook


1. Mr. Darrell Blatchley confirmed it is a male of a species of Beaked Whale by the presence of protruding teeth at both sides of the beak.
2. The whale sustained various deep bite wounds in the lower parts of his body, assumed to be from an attack of Cookiecutter Sharks (Isistius brasiliensis) or similar species, according to Mr. Blatchley.
3, 4. The creature is 14.8 feet long to be exact.
5. The poor whale wrapped for necropsy.
6. Such a vast creature that it won’t fit into a public utility jeep.
7. Notice the sharp protruding tooth on the side of the beak.

Responded to a shore-trapped and wounded 15-feet Beaked Whale today at Banana Beach, Madaum, Tagum City. Sadly, the enormous creature didn’t survive. Another loss of marine life here.

Source: Cyrian Anthony Facebook

On Friday, the Museum recovered another whale that stranded and died in the Davao Gulf. Currently it is a tossup between two species: Ginkgo-toothed Beaked Whale (Mesoplodon ginkgodens) or a Deraniyagala’s Beaked Whale (Mesoplodon hotaula). If not one of them, it could be another new species. Pictures to follow. Cause of death: dehydration brought about by starvation. It’s a catch-22. Whales and dolphins don’t drink ocean water, they get their fresh water from the food they eat. No food no water.

Source: D’ Bone Collector Museum Facebook

A very rare Beaked Whale (Mesoplodon sp.), 14.8ft long, stranded dead in Banana Beach Resort, Tagum City, Davao del Norte last Friday. The animal was taken to the D’ Bone Collector Museum in Davao City for proper examination and preservation.

Source: Marine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines Facebook

Toothed whales have survived millions of years without key antiviral proteins

Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have determined that toothed whales lack functional Mx genes — a surprising discovery, since all 56 other sequenced mammals in the study possess these genes to fight off viruses like HIV, measles and flu.

Modern toothed whales, including dolphins, orcas and sperm whales, have inherited defunct copies of the Mx1 and Mx2 genes, profoundly altering their immune systems. The basic role of theseMx genes is to make proteins that fight viral infections. The researchers hope that understanding this newly discovered mysterious genetic anomaly will help preserve these cetaceans as they face extensive die-offs.



Another cetacean, a Dwarf Sperm Whale (Kogia sima), stranded but was released in Aparri, Cagayan last September 25. It re-stranded three days later in the same area. PMMSN members and volunteers tried to rehabilitate the animal but it died the following day. Many thanks to Jeff Soriano (BFAR2), Doctors Ronnie and Christine Duque, and the rest of the response team for their efforts to help this animal.

Source: Friends of PMMSN - Philippine Marine Mammal Stranding Network Facebook

Scientific Name: Mesoplodon bowdoini
Other Names: Deepcrest Beaked Whale, Splay-toothed Beaked Whale, Bowdoin’s Beaked Whale

The Andrew’s Beaked Whale is one of the least known whale species in existence. In fact, it has only been observed from strandings, of which there have been about 20. Interestingly, even these stranded animals have been incorrectly identified, since it is very similar to the Hubbs’ Beaked Whale. The teeth of the Andrew’s Beaked Whale are noteworthy, as they are broad and flat and situated on the top of the very arched mouth line. In males, these teeth protrude outside of the mouth, while they remain inside the mouths of the females and juveniles.

Physical Characteristics
Andrew’s Beaked Whales have a dark blue body that is rather robust in comparison to many of the other, more slender fusiform cetaceans. The bodies are often scribbled with white scarring and their beaks are predominantly white. The very small dorsal fin usually has a pointed tip but, in some cases, they have been found to have a slightly rounded tip. The tail fin, or fluke, has frilled trailing edges with no notch in the centre. In fact, there is a small bulge in the centre; the complete opposite of a notch.

The distinctive arched mouth line is a prominent part of this whale’s physical appearance. Its teeth curve outwards.

The adult Andrew’s Beaked Whale measures about four to 4.7 metres in length, which is equivalent to about 14 feet. On average, these animals weigh between one and 1.5 tonnes.

Because these whale species have never been spotted (or reported) in the wild, it is reasonable to conclude that the Andrew’s Beaked Whale is rather elusive and unobtrusive. Based on the scarring on the body, it may also be supposed that males fight one another in aggressive displays for mates.

Where to Find Them
The natural habitat of the Andrew’s Beaked Whale can only be presumed based on the location of the strandings of these whales. Strandings have occurred on the beaches of Australia, New Zealand and Tasmania. Therefore, it is likely that they live close to these coastlines.

Based on what has been found in the guts of the dead whale specimens that were stranded, the Andrew’s Beaked Whale feeds primarily on squid.

Threats to these animals are unknown due to the lack of information available.

For more information, please view:

An afternoon of supposed marine mammal stranding rescue but turned out to be necropsy and burial, a sad afternoon.

Two Spinner Dolphins were seen by a fisherman in Manhilo, Maasin City. One was very weak and the other was accompanying the weak one at around past 11 am of January 20, 2016. The fisherman dragged the weak Spinner to their fish corral and have her rest in the area, the other one was released back to the sea. Report was received by the undersigned at around 12:20 noon and proceeded to the area immediately after changing office uniform and arrived to the site at exactly 12:44 noon.

When we arrived the area, the Spinner was already dead so we decided together with the MCAIFTF or Maasin Bantay Dagat to bring the dead spinner dolphin to the shore.

The basic facts of the Spinner Dolphin, Stenella longirostris, a.k.a. Long-snouted Spinner Dolphin: length 205 cm (from tip of snout to tail), girth 84 cm (near front dorsal fin), span of tail fluke 44 cm, dorsal fin height 13.2 cm, pectoral flipper length 25 cm, weight approximately 45-50 kilos. Other distinguishing marks observed: an oblong hole in the left-side back of dorsal 7 x 4 cm; the tail was obviously tied by a nylon as shown by the wounds; #3 hook was found at the right side of the snout/mouth.

Necropsy findings: cause of death was the accidental biting of hook that led to hunger. The dolphin cannot bite or eat because definitely the hook cause pain in biting. But there was an intriguing observation that the tail was tied by a nylon as shown in the picture. The necropsy was done by the city veterinarian and assisted by MCAIFTF member, Brgy Manhilo Kagawads, BFAR personnel & PENRMO technical staffs.

Gasoline was poured over the dead Spinner Dolphin to avoid people from exhuming the buried Dolphin.

Source: Armando Estrella-Ordiz Basco-Gaviola Facebook, via Marine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines Facebook

(This is Part 8 of a 8-part photo set)

This is actually a Pantropical Spotted Dolphin (Stenella attenuata).

Baird’s beaked whales, Berardius bairdii(Stejneger, 1883), aka north Pacific bottle-nosed whales, are the largest of the beaked whales reaching up to12.8m in length. The species was named forSpencer F. Baird of the Smithsonian Institution, a well-known naturalist in the late 1800s.

This whale species has a small head, which equals about 1/8 of the total body length. The Baird’s beaked whale has a distinctive bulbous forehead that slopes steeply to a long, thin beak similar to a dolphin’s beak. When it surfaces to breathe, its head exits the water at a steep angle allowing the bulging forehead, beak, and teeth to be seen clearly. The lower jaw extends10cm beyond the upper jaw exposing two sets of teeth near the tip of the snout. Like many other whales, there are no teeth in the upper jaw, and like many beaked whales there are 2 v-shaped throat grooves. The front pair of teeth in the lower jaw is about 9cm long. A second pair of teeth is found 20cm behind the front set which is about 5cm.

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True’s Beaked Whale by Shadow-and-Flame-86

True’s beaked whale is one of the least known members of the family, only named in 1913 and only reported in a live sighting in 1995. Photographs taken in the Bay of Biscay in 2001 are the first confirmed sighting of this species in European waters.
True’s is a typical beaked whale in form – large and round bodied with a small head and fins. The colour is quite variable but generally a bluish grey with a lighter underside and often a darker eye patch surrounded by lighter skin. The head profile of this species is superficially similar to the bottlenose dolphin, but without the crease separating the melon from the beak. A stranding in South Africa showed a female to have a white tail stock, from the dorsal fin down, its not yet known whether this is a consistent geographical variation. 

The distribution of True’s beaked whale is poorly know but is thought to range from Nova Scotia and Ireland to the north and Florida, the Bahamas and the Canaries in the south within the North Atlantic, while in the southern hemisphere strandings have occurred in South Africa and western Australia.