Scientists in Mexico's Laguna Ojo de Liebre, or Scammon's Lagoon, on Sunday discovered conjoined gray whale calves.
It might be the first documented case of conjoined twin gray whales. (Conjoined twins have occurred in other species, such as fin, sei and minke whales. A database search at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County did not reveal published instances of conjoined gray whale twins, or what might also be referred to as Siamese gray whale twins.)
Unfortunately, the twins discovered in Scammon's Lagoon did not survive. They might have been miscarried because they were deformed and underveloped. However, the carcass measured about 13 feet long, close to normal size for newborn gray whales.
Alisa Schulman-Janiger, an American Cetacean Society researcher, said there's no way conjoined twin whales could live for more than a brief period. It would require too much coordination to breathe. "If they weren't born dead, the died soon after they were born," she said, adding that she wondered about the fate of the mother.
The twins' carcass has been collected for study.
The top photo is courtesy of Jesus Gomez. The bottom photo was among three posted Sunday to the Guerrero Negro Verde Facebook page, with the translated statement, "Unfortunately, the specimen died. [Its] survival was very difficult."
Gray whales are arriving in Scammon's Lagoon and other lagoons along the Baja California peninsula, after a nearly 6,000-mile journey from Arctic home waters. They give birth during the southbound journey, or in the lagoons, and nurse their calves for several weeks before migrating back to the Bering and Chukchi seas.
NOAA estimates the Pacific gray whale population to number about 21,000 animals.