Scientists are investigating a dead striped dolphin that washed ashore in Windward Oahu Tuesday.
It was spotted at the campground of Kualoa Regional Park and had multiple cookiecutter shark bites on its body.
“There certainly is evidence that cookiecutter sharks had a time with this carcass,” said Kristi West, an associate professor of biology at Hawaii Pacific University. “The animal is in very good body condition, so we’ll be able to do a full necropsy examination and try to determine why the dolphin died and what happened to it before coming to the shore.”
A necropsy was conducted at HPU’s Hawaii Loa campus in Kaneohe. The procedure lasted until midnight. Samples were also collected for further testing.
West says the dolphin was a pregnant female in its third trimester. Her stomach was empty, which means she had not fed for at least 24 hours before she died.
Scientists also found an unusual bone fusion between the skull and first vertebrae, a sign of a previous injury due to blunt trauma.
The cause of the dolphin’s death has not yet been determined. West says the investigation could go on for several weeks or even months.
The striped dolphin is also known as a leaper, because it tends to leap out of the way of boats, West says.
West says Hawaii has had approximately six dolphin and whale strandings so far this year.