The necropsy results are in on the fifth dead whale to wash up on Bay Area shores since April. While they aren't completely conclusive (what in this life is?), it sounds like the deck was stacked against this one from the get-go.
As you probably remember, this "badly decomposed" juvenile grey whale washed up in late September about 150 to 200 yards south of the Alameda Creek Channel and north of the Dumbarton Bridge.
Likely born earlier this year, the 25-foot-whale was thought to have been a victim of El Nino, the weather conditions of which have disrupted whales' food supplies.
According to the Marine Mammal Center, which released the results of their necropsy on Tuesday, the female whale had "propeller strike injuries to its dorsal area...consistent with reports of a ship hitting a whale in the Oakland outer harbor channel."
However, the wounds "only penetrated the whale’s outer blubber." It doesn't appear that the collision caused any broken bones or internal bleeding, so it's unlikely that the ship killed her — but a birth defect might have, as they say that she had a congenital spine abnormality that would have made it hard for her to forage for food, thus leading to emaciation and, eventually, starvation.
Even with these findings, the Marina Mammal Center couldn't pinpoint an exact cause of death. But doing these necropsies is still worthwhile, Shawn Johnson, the MMC's Director of Veterinary Science, says.
“Even if we are not able to determine a final cause of death, our research provides insights into the overall health of these animals and their ocean environment, including any human impacts that may play a role,” Johnson says.
“By conducting a necropsy on a whale that washes up on our shores, we’re able to expand our baseline data to better understand these marine mammals."