Yesterday, I made a wonderful but sad discovery as I walked along the pebbles at Chesil Cove. At first, I could not take in what I was looking at because it looked, somehow, so artificial – like a large model or toy. This exquisite creature was a new-born (neonatal) Risso’s Dolphin (Grampus griseus). [Thank you to Dan Worth of Razorbill RIB Charter and Rod Penrose of the Marine Mammal Strandings programme (Welsh Coast) for confirmation of the identity].
The stranded body of this small dolphin was about 1.3 metres long. It looked unlike any dolphin I had ever seen before and was clearly not a Common or Bottle-nose Dolphin as it had no ‘beaked’ snout. The odd shape of the head is characteristic of this species as also with the dorsal fin, pectoral fins and the tail flukes.
Flung ashore by huge waves, it was virtually unmarked but for a few grazes and scratches on head and under-belly. The smooth, cold, rubbery skin shaded from almost black, through grey and tan to near white; unblemished and scarless with just a few fine lines and creases where the fins articulated with the body and in the places most stretched – like the jaw line. Apparently the broader barely perceptible marks along its sides are foetal folds and the chief indicator that it had recently been born. In mature Risso’s Dolphins the skin is criss-crossed by multiple scarrings which make the skin look pale.
I alerted colleagues on the Strandlines and Beachcombing page of Facebook last night. This morning Steve Trewhella, a Dorset Marine Biologist, went to Chesil Cove and was able to recover the body which will now be sent for post-mortem. The Natural History Museum have been notified as stranded sea mammals must be recorded. If you find any beach stranded sea mammal such as a whale, dolphin, or porpoise (Cetacea), you can find out who to contact by clicking here for the details on the British Marine Life Study Society site which is run by Andy Horton.
Click here for more information about Risso’s Dolphins.
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