Dubai: One of the smallest of the world's biggest creatures, a dwarf sperm whale, was found beached along Palm Jebel Ali a few days ago after colliding with a vessel which probably caused death on impact.
The unusual discovery is a rare stranding in the UAE. Patrol staff from Emirates Marine Environmental Group (EMEG) found the miniature whale early on Wednesday morning. Major Ali Saqr Al Suwaidi, head of EMEG, said this is the first time he has seen such a whale in UAE's waters.
The whale was in good condition and had clearly only recently died, probably from a collision with a boat given the head trauma injury visible on top of its head, said Keith D.P. Wilson, Marine Programme Director at EMEG.
"The species has been recorded in the Arabian Gulf before but nearly all records of this whale, which occurs throughout the tropics and warm temperate region both from the Atlantic and Indo-Pacific oceans, are from rare stranding events. Records from the Gulf are extremely rare," he said.
Worldwide, little is known about the species and most information is gathered from strandings.
Only three species belong to the sperm whale family (Kogiidae) and the dwarf sperm whale (Kogia sima) which is the smallest with a maximum length of just 2.7 metres. It weighs up to 250kg.
The carcass of the 2.6 metre dead whale at Palm Jebel Ali was covered in a dark reddish substance, which apparently seeps out of the animal when it is attacked or frightened. Dwarf sperm whales feed mainly on squid and crabs and prefer deeper water.
The dwarf sperm whale is the smallest of all the whales and even smaller than some of the larger dolphins. Its head looks strange and has an almost seal-like appearance with a small, shark-like underslung jaw and long, curved, sharp teeth. Dwarf sperm whales are usually solitary but have occasionally been seen in small groups.