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Humpback whale underwater

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Small fish kills large whale

In a rare incident, a small flat fish is thought to have killed a whale after becoming stuck in the much larger creature’s blowhole.

According to scientists, it is the first recorded incident of a pilot whale suffocating on a fish since 1581, and within weeks it is thought to have happened once again.

The freakish incidents happened in 2014, when a pod of 30-40 long-finned pilot whales drifted into the waters off the eastern coast of the UK. One of the whales then washed up dead six weeks later and a post mortem (necropsy) on the whale revealed a fish (sole) had lodged in the whale’s blowhole, which would have prevented the much larger creature from breathing. Bizarrely, a few weeks after the post mortem, another pilot whale washed up dead with a sole stuck in its blowhole too.

It is though that the soles flexible bodies may have allowed them to roll up inside the mouths of the whales and then to find a way up into their blowholes. A whale can dislocate its larynx when trying to eat fish and so they may have pushed these fish into their blowholes when trying to swallow them.

A similar incident involving a dolphin was reported in May 2014 – read more