Yet another whale carcass has washed up with a stomach full of plastic. This time, it was a pregnant female sperm whale with 49 lbs. (22 kilograms) of plastic in her stomach. She washed up on a beach in Porto Cervo, a popular tourist destination in Sardinia, Italy.
Luca Bittau, president of SEAME Sardinia, a nonprofit organization that aims to protect cetaceans in the Mediterranean through research and education, told CNN that the beached mammal's stomach contained plastic bags, fishing nets and lines, and other objects that were too decomposed to identify.
That’s not all that was inside her.
"She was pregnant and had almost certainly aborted before (she) beached," Bittau said. "The fetus was in an advanced state of decomposition." [Whale Album: Giants of the Deep]
Sperm whales (Physeter microcephalus) are the only living species of their genus and are the largest living species of toothed whales. Fully grown adult females reach up to 36 feet (11 meters) in length and weigh some 13 to 14 tons (11.7 to 12.7 metric tons), while adult males are far bigger, growing to 59 feet (18 m) long and weighing 35 to 45 tons (31.7 to 40.8 metric tons), according to the American Cetacean Society.
The young female sperm whale that washed up in Italy was a little over 26 feet (8 m) long, and the fetus was about 6 feet (2 m) long, local news agency ICONA NEWS reported. The whale's cause of death is still under investigation.
These marine giants primarily feed on deep-water squid, fish, rays and octopus and consume about 2,000 lbs. (907 kg) of food each day, according to the American Cetacean Society. However, it seems that plastic has also become a part of their diet.
In recent months, sperm whale carcasses with stomachs full of plastic have washed up in Spain and Indonesia. And sperm whales aren't the only marine mammals with an increasingly plastic-filled diet. Just two weeks ago, the carcass of a Cuvier's beaked whale washed up in the Philippines with an astonishing 88 lbs. (40 kg) of plastic bags packed inside its stomach.
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Originally published on Live Science.
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Kimberly has a bachelor's degree in marine biology from Texas A&M University, a master's degree in biology from Southeastern Louisiana University and a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz. She is a former reference editor for Live Science and Space.com. Her work has appeared in Inside Science, News from Science, the San Jose Mercury and others. Her favorite stories include those about animals and obscurities. A Texas native, Kim now lives in a California redwood forest.