Dwarf Sperm Whale
A dwarf sperm whale (Kogia sima) leaping out of the water. Robeet Pitman (NOAA), Wikimedia Commons

A 2.42-metre whale died after it got stranded at Red Bluff on Saturday. Authorities believe that the whale is a rare dwarf sperm whale and not the commonly seen dwarf pygmy whale. The unique species has never been seen before in Victoria.

Stranded whales have been found though in the Northern Territory, New South Wales, Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia. A dwarf sperm whale, like a shark, has a distinctive underslung jaw. It is small and robust in side.

A confirmed case of dwarf sperm whale live sighting was recorded in 2006 in South Australia. Victorian environment department’s fire burning crews were called in to carry the dead whale away from the beach. The crew was working on fuel reduction burns in the area.

“It's leading us towards a dwarf sperm whale rather than the more commonly encountered dwarf pygmy whale. But we'll get confirmation of that as we go with the genetics or the scalp,” Tony Mitchell, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning biodiversity officer, told the ABC.

Another small whale was also found stranded in Gippsland in eastern Victoria on Monday near Wonthaggi. Museum Victoria is looking into the matter and trying to find out any connection between the two whales. These whales have a very low chance of survival once they hit the beach. The two whales may have washed ashore due to lack of food, starvation or changes in water currents and weather.

Melbourne Museum scientists will conduct further testing and take the previous whale away for their collection. Once the dead whale arrives, senior curator of mammals at Museum Victoria, Dr. Kevin Rowe, will be able to confirm whether the whale is the rare dwarf sperm whale. Dwarf sperm whales are smaller than dolphins and are the smallest of the whales.

“[Dwarf sperm whales] are closely related to sperm whales, but they are uniquely different; you can't really mistake them,” said Mitchell.