Scientists believe a boat strike likely injured and killed a large humpback whale that washed ashore late Monday night, officials told BuzzFeed News.
The 42-foot adult female humpback was found with four broken vertebrae and a broken rib, Laura Sherr, spokeswoman for the The Marine Mammal Center, told BuzzFeed News.
The injuries seemed consistent the whale being hit by a ship — a common injury suffered by the large whales — though the cause of death had not yet officially been determined.
More than 15 scientists cut through the whale Wednesday to perform an autopsy, Sherr said.
The humpback was found just a short distance from where the carcass of a sperm whale washed ashore in April, but Sherr said the two deaths do not appear to be related.
"It is migration season, so there are more in the area," she said. "It's definitely an odd coincidence, but we don't think that it's related at all."
Officials plan to bury the bodies of the two whales on Thursday.
The sight of 42-foot humpback whale on the beach near San Francisco Tuesday attracted curious spectators who wanted a closer look.
In April, a sperm whale washed ashore not far away at Mori Point. Biologists determined the whale had been injured, but were unable to determine how it died.
In January, a pygmy sperm died after beaching itself in Marin County.
Examining the whale carcass Tuesday was difficult because it was still in the shallow surf, Sherr added.
The whale is believed to have been spotted floating near the shore about five days ago.
Humpback whales are listed as an endangered species. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, they can live to about 50 years old, grow up to 60 feet long, and weigh 40 tons.
Despite their daunting size, they are susceptible to being entangled in fishing gear, being struck by ships, and changes in their environment.
Salvador Hernandez is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.
Contact Salvador Hernandez at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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