Struggling Whale with Severe Scoliosis Spotted off the Coast of Spain

Off the coast of Valencia, Spain, on a recent Saturday, a magnificent whale captivated onlookers, initially raising concerns of distress. However, upon closer inspection, it was revealed that the whale was suffering from a severe deformation of the spine known as scoliosis.

Weighing an astonishing 40 tons, the fin whale was observed near Cullera beach, approximately 200 miles southwest of Barcelona. A concerned skipper on a passing boat alerted rescuers, fearing that the whale was entangled in some sort of fishing net.

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Upon arrival, biologists and veterinarians from the Oceanographic Foundation carefully examined the whale and determined that it was not ensnared in any drift net.

Instead, it was afflicted with a significant deviation in its spine—a scoliosis of unknown origin that had dramatically altered its anatomy.

Interestingly, whales are not typically known to develop scoliosis spontaneously, as highlighted by a study published in Nature in 2021. While there have been several reported cases of cetaceans with scoliosis, all of them have had clear causes, usually resulting from traumatic events such as ship collisions.

Unfortunately, due to the whale’s location in the open sea and the magnitude of its malformation, veterinarians were unable to attach a remote tracker to gather more detailed information about its condition, biology, and trajectory.

Several hours later, the nearly 56-foot-long whale swam back out to sea, distancing itself from the coast. However, wildlife officials have cautioned that it may reappear in the coming days due to its overall condition and the challenges it faces while swimming.

The fin whale, the second-largest whale species on Earth after the blue whale, is known to frequent Spanish Mediterranean waters during the summer months. This sighting serves as a reminder of the diverse marine life inhabiting these seas and the importance of studying and protecting these magnificent creatures.

As scientists continue to monitor the welfare of the whale with severe scoliosis, it is hoped that further research and conservation efforts will shed light on the cause of its condition and contribute to the preservation of these remarkable marine species in the future.

 

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