On December 15, Dr. Vicky Thayer received a live stranding report of a “black dolphin or black whale” off Lola Drive in Cedar Island. The report was that it was “alive and dolphin-like.”
The Stranding Team mobilized in two vehicles, prepared for live-stranded cetacean such as Risso’s dolphin or perhaps a pilot whale. However, when the team arrived on the scene they found something unexpected – the animal was a Mola mola, commonly referred to as an Ocean Sunfish.
The Ocean Sunfish generally sticks to the open ocean, and this one was quite a distance away from even deep water. Though all options were carefully considered for rescuing the sunfish, it ultimately was euthanized at the stranding site.
In circumstances such as these, a euthanized animal is taken to CMAST on a stretcher where fluid samples are taken and carefully documented and preserved. Finally, the animal is placed into cold storage for a later necropsy to learn more about what may have led to its death. This may also give students a valuable opportunity to examine an animal first hand in great detail with which they have not previously had hands-on experience.