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Mystic Aquarium performs necropsy on humpback whale

Mystic -- Mystic Aquarium has announced that experts from its Animal Rescue Program and other organizations performed a necropsy last Thursday on a dead humpback whale that washed ashore a week earlier in Little Compton, R.I.

The necropsy, similar to a human autopsy, is designed to identify potential causes that led to the death of the 25-foot-long whale. That data is used by the National Marine Fisheries Service to help protect whales in the wild.

The aquarium said it team gathered data through an initial external examination that included recording measurements, detailing any abnormalities on the animal's exterior, taking photos, and collecting organ and tissue samples for study. After the necropsy the remains of the whale were buried.

"Beyond the world-class animal care provided to all living animals at Mystic Aquarium, we conduct important scientific data collection on these dead stranded animals to help us understand what challenges they are facing in the wild. This information is required to inform the conservation of these animals. The necropsy allows us to understand the whale's story and what is occurring in their ocean environment," said Sarah Callan, the aquarium's animal rescue program manager, in a statement issued by the aquarium.

The aquarium said the data collected from the whale may contribute towards the understanding of unusual mortality events of humpback whales. There have been more than 150 humpback whale strandings since 2016 and wild populations are still recovering from commercial whaling that depleted the species by 95%. They face danger from disease, ship strikes and fishing gear entanglement.

"The tragic loss of this animal is a sad but important reminder of the dire circumstances many cetaceans currently face,” said Stephen M. Coan, the aquarium's president and CEO. “The environment where these whales live is changing rapidly due to the impact of human activity and climate change. We must make every effort now to ensure a future for these incredible species.”

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