Another uncommon stranding in the southwest...21st Jan 2009 While not attracting the huge publicity of the recent fin whale stranding in Courtmacsherry, the IWDG received a report today (21 Jan) of a stranded pygmy sperm whale Kogia breviceps. The whale stranded dead and in poor condition on 17 January near Sneem in Co. Kerry.
This little known animal has never been recorded live in Irish waters and this is only the seventh stranding record for Ireland. Previous strandings have all occurred on the west/southwest coast between Kerry and Galway with the first record being from Co. Clare in 1966. Single stranding records for pygmy sperm whales were also received in 1985, 1999, 2000, 2002 and 2005.
Little is known about ecology and distribution of pygmy sperm whales in Irish waters, with most of our information coming from the study of stranded animals. They are thought to favour deep water beyond the continental shelf and feed primarily on squid and octopus. They are easily identified by their shark-like mouth, false gill line behind the eye and small dorsal fin.
This specimen will be collected and the skeleton will be prepared for display in the Natural History Museum in Dublin. IWDG would like to acknowledge the assistance of Kevin O'Farrell and Clare Heardman (NPWS) with this stranding.
Below is an image of another Pygmy sperm whale in fresher condition, which also stranded in Co. Kerry. It washed up in Ballyheigue in November 2005. The skeleton of this whale can be seen in the Shannon Dolphin and Wildlife Centre in Kilrush, Co Clare (see www.shannondolphins.ie)
IWDG Stranding Co-ordinator