Heartbreaking footage shows whale with severely broken back struggling to swim

Off the shore of Spain, a fin whale with a malformed vertebrae was recently seen having trouble swimming. Experts believe that a vessel impact caused its spine to break.

A fin whale with a badly misaligned spine was recently captured on camera trying to swim off the shore of Spain in the Mediterranean. The gentle behemoth will probably slowly starve as a result of this severe case of scoliosis, which experts believe was brought on by a vessel hit.

The boat's crew discovered the wounded fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus) on March 4 off the coast of Cullera, close to Valencia. It measured 56 feet (17 meters) in length. , a lot of the time. Those who have been a lot of the newer ones. The and and and. The the the an an a lot of the the st that the and the the – – the – –. When they arrived, it was clear that the whale was not trapped; instead, it had "scoliosis of unknown origin," Oceanographic Valencia wrote on Facebook.

The wounded animal's back was too deformed for the satellite tag to adhere when the researchers tried to mount a monitoring device on it. The fin whale quietly moved away from the coast and into deeper waters after "a few hours of attention," according to officials of Oceanographic Valencia.

Live Science was informed by experts that the whale's scoliosis was likely brought on by a vessel impact that fractured the whale's back.

The head scientist of the Pacific Whale Foundation in Hawaii, Jens Currie, explained in an email to Live Science that the word "scoliosis" merely refers to an aberrant lateral curvature of the spine. Scoliosis can have many different causes, but blunt force injuries is by far the most prevalent.

Erich Hoyt, a research fellow at Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) in the U.K., and Simone Panigada, vice-president of the Tethys Research Institute in Italy, concurred that it is probable that the whale "was recently struck by a vessel," as Currie put it. However, the experts pointed out that it's challenging to pinpoint precisely what occurred.

Scoliosis can occur in young whales or be present at birth in big whales. However, Currie noted that juvenile whales with scoliosis almost never survive to maturity.

Fin whales, blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus), humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae), and other species of baleen whales forage by lunging through vast shoals of krill, or microscopic crustaceans. They do this by quickly moving through the water with the help of their huge tails, or flukes. However, the video shows that the wounded whale is unable to do this, which suggests that it is likely famished.

The whale is already very skinny and starting to appear unwell, as we can see from the footage, according to Currie. It's extremely improbable that it will endure. Baleen whales can go for months without eating, so wounds like this could result in a "slow and painful death," the expert continued.

The connection between cetacean scoliosis and vessel collisions is not new. According to The Guardian, a humpback whale named Moon traveled more than 3,100 miles (5,000 kilometers) using only her fins before being discovered in Hawaii in December 2022 with a fractured back. Another fin whale with scoliosis was discovered by Panigada the previous year close to Barcelona, though the spine deformity was less serious.

But most whales don't make it through a run-in with a boat. According to the Italian non-governmental group Friend of the Sea, due to a more than 300% rise in worldwide maritime traffic since 1992, approximately 20,000 whales are thought to be killed annually by vessel collisions. However, Hoyt noted that it is difficult to monitor this since most killed whales are never discovered and attacks are frequently ignored.

Whales are subjected to a lot of noise from commerce in addition to vessel collisions, which can impair their ability to navigate, feed, and communicate. According to Currie, "I would argue that [ship traffic] is one of the major issues that cetaceans confront globally.