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Whale Wounds
Contributed by Mike & Winston

Mike and Winston are volunteers with the American Cetacean Society near Los Angeles. They have participated in the counting of migrating whales for several years. They share these comments and photos about whale wounds:

"While observing the migrating Gray whales, we occasionally come across injured whales. Some have very major wounds like this one.

"This whale was probably hit by a boat, or had been entangled in some fishing nets. Note the V shape cut on its peduncle (tail stock ). The ACS/LA Gray whale census sighted a similar wound on a mother's back. It was a huge wound in her right side from just in front of the dorsal ridges down the side of the peduncle for at least two feet. The wound was white with lots of lice around it. From the left side it looked like a chunk had been taken from her back. The wound did, however, appear to be on the mend. Because the gray whale migrates close to shore, it is more likely than other whales to get these types of injuries."

Try This! Study the Fluke

"Some injuries are minor. If you look carefully at the fluke (tail) edges on this photo, it appears that something has been taking bites out of it. What do you think the culprit is? Write or draw your predictions in your journal before reading on.

"If you are thinking Orca (killer whales) you would likely be wrong. Although some Orcas are known to attack and eat other marine mammals, these wounds are more likely to be done by a 10-inch long shark, known as a "Cookie-Cutter Shark" (Isistius brasiliensis). The Cookie-cutter Shark is named after the neat cookie-shaped wounds that it leaves on the bodies of larger fishes and marine mammals. It does this by attaching itself to its prey with its suctorial lips, and then spins to cut out a cookie-shaped plug of flesh."

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