Drone camera footage captured an enormous fin whale with a deformed spine suffering from a rare case of “severe scoliosis.”
The 55-foot-long, 40-ton fin whale was captured struggling to swim through the water off the coast of the city of Cullera in Valencia, Spain earlier this month.
On March 4, the captain of a boat called an emergency line after he spotted the fin whale and believed that the massive creature was tangled in a net.
Veterinarians and biologists from the Oceanografic Foundation in Valencia rushed to evaluate the whale’s situation.
It was initially presumed that the whale had become entangled in a fishing net as it was listing in shallow waters and appeared to be moving with difficulty close to a lighthouse in the city of Cullera.
However, it transpired that the animal was suffering from a much worse and unique condition.
In a Facebook post, the Oceanografic Foundation in Valencia revealed that they discovered that the whale was not caught in a net but was actually “suffering from a severe deviation in its spine — a scoliosis of unknown origin that completely altered its anatomy.”
As a result of this unique case of scoliosis, the whale was afflicted with a seriously contorted spine which meant it could not swim properly.
Whales, unlike humans, are not known to develop scoliosis spontaneously. According to a 2021 study published in Nature, all reported cases have clear causes, most of which are traumatic injuries such as those derived from a collision with a ship.
Biologists from Valencia’s Oceanographic Foundation reported that they hoped to fit a tracking device onto the whale. However, according to a statement, the rescue team could not manage to put a tracker on the 40-ton whale “due to its size, location and deformation.”
The whale swam back into the open sea within a few hours of the examination. But the Oceanografic Foundation believes that the whale could soon appear in the same area again since it has difficulty swimming.
Fin whales are the second-largest whale species on the planet, only after blue whales. They are listed as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act and depleted under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, as the major threat to fin whales is vessel strikes.
In December, PetaPixel reported on drone cameras that monitored a humpback whale called “Moon” which swam 3,100 miles (5,000 kilometers) with a broken back. Moon is believed to have suffered the spinal injury from a vessel strike.
Image credits: Featured photo sourced via YouTube/Oceanografic Valencia Oficial.