SAN DIEGO, March 18 (UPI) -- A gray whale lacking flukes on its tail was caught on camera by whale and dolphin watchers off the coast of Southern California.
Whale watchers with Captain Dave's Dolphin and Whale Safari captured video of the whale's injured tail Monday, one day after it was photographed by a group with Dana Wharf Whale Watching.
Audrey Evans with the Birch Aquarium said she spotted the no-tail-whale Saturday while aboard the Flagship Cruises' Murrieta.
"I was very shocked to see it," Evans told KGTV. "It didn't seem like it should be able swim along at the pace that it was swimming at, just because that driving force of that tail was completely missing."
Dr. Sam Ridgway with the National Marine Mammal Foundation said the flukes may have lost circulation and fallen off as a result of getting caught in fishing gear.
"It's reported that they probably get them caught in fishing gear, crab pots," Ridgway said.
David Anderson of Captain Dave's Dolphin and Whale Safari agreed with Ridgway.
"The injury appears to be amputation caused by fishing gear entanglement. The blood supply to the affected area may have been cut off causing the end of the tail and flukes to die and fall off without impacting the rest of the whale," he said in the description of a YouTube video depicting the whale.
Capt. Tom White of the Dana Pride, which runs from Dana Wharf Whale Watching, said the whale seems to have adapted to its injury.
"It just goes to show how smart these mammals are, to be able to adapt so well without a limb," he told GrindTV. "It was migrating along fine, although a little slower than what we usually see -- about 3 knots instead of 4 or 5."
"And during its deeper dives it would use its pectoral fins and swim harder on one side to spin around" in a corkscrew shape, White said. "But it did not seem to be in any trouble."