A whale of a mystery

By MEGAN KINNINMENT

A RARE whale beached at Byron Bay on Tuesday has excited scientists from around Australia, with some predicting it could be a new species.

National Parks and Wildlife Service spokesman Lawrence Orel said major Australian museums had shown a lot of interest in the whale.

While an autopsy carried out by Southern Cross University and Sea World scientists yesterday was unable to find a cause of death, the six-metre elderly female had large kidney stones.

Its body has been buried in the Arakwal National Park to be exhumed in a year so that scientists can examine the skeleton. The head and internal organs have been sent to the Australian Museum for identification and research.

Australian Museum Mammal Collections manager Dr Sandy Ingleburn said the whale may be identified as a deep-sea dwelling Longman's beaked whale, the rarest of all the beaked species of which there is only two skulls in existence.

It also may be a Culvier beaked whale, which was discovered in New Guinea in 1903 but never found in Australia.

"We haven't got a firm identification yet, it could be one of the very unusual species or it could be a species we've never identified before," he said.



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