Though these preliminary results are not definitive (it could be several months before final results are available, according to the NOAA's statement), this scenario is considered likely for a number of reasons, such as:
The whale was already missing a fin, possibly due to an earlier boat strike, causing debilitation and/or death.
The whale was also already missing part of its jaw. According to the NOAA, the loss of the fin "may have been followed by killer whale scavenging, as a large portion of the ventral pleats in the lower jaw was missing (an area of the body typically targeted by killer whales)."
Collected samples -- skin, muscle, blubber, liver, kidney, ovaries, stomach contents, parasites, urine and feces, and one recovered eye -- will be further examined to rule out scenarios such as exposure to toxins and genetics.
A post-mortem in a similar strike last year involving Sapphire Princess concluded that whale was also already dead when it and the ship collided in Alaska.
What are cruise lines doing to avoid whale strikes at sea? Read on for more information.
--by Melissa Paloti, Managing Editor
BLOG: A Whale of Problem
What are Cruise Lines Doing to Avoid Whales?
Cruise Ship Collides With Whale in Alaska
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