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Dead Whale That Washed Ashore a "Celebrity"

A humpback whale that recently washed ashore dead on a beach in Long Island, N.Y., had been tracked by researchers for 37 years, according to news reports.

The animal was "a celebrity in the whale world" and named Istar, after Ishtar, a Babylonian fertility goddess, according to Newsday. Istar gave birth to at least 11 calves throughout her life. Researchers have tracked the whale since 1976, not with an electronic tag but by recording sightings of the distinctive markings on her tail fin. Istar was at least 41 years old, 48 feet (14.6 meters) long and was estimated to weigh 30 to 35 tons (27,215 to 45,360 kilograms), researchers told Newsday.

Although her death is still under investigation, she had massive cranial damage consistent with a ship strike, according to news reports. "I won't lie, it's not really easy," researcher Jooke Robbins told Newsday. "Istar is just an individual known for so long, as such a productive whale. She's a big favorite for so many people."

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Douglas Main
Douglas Main loves the weird and wonderful world of science, digging into amazing Planet Earth discoveries and wacky animal findings (from marsupials mating themselves to death to zombie worms to tear-drinking butterflies) for Live Science. Follow Doug on Google+.