Tuesday 8 December 2015

Death by Flatfish: Whales Suffocate After Soles Clog Blowholes

by Laura Geggel, Staff Writer | December 07, 2015 06:50am ET

Two long-finned pilot whales died along the Dutch coast last winter after flatfish got stuck in the whales' blowholes and suffocated the giant mammals, a new study finds.

Blowhole suffocation due to fish is rare, and the researchers called it a "lose-lose situation," because both the whale and the flatfish, which were common sole (Solea solea), died during the event.

"[The whales] were surely feeding on them. It just went wrong," said study lead researcher Lonneke IJsseldijk, a biologist and a faculty member of veterinary medicine at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. "What we think happened is [the soles] were putting up a fight or they became stuck, and both animals died."

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