A rarely seen Gervais beaked whale was found washed up dead on the mangroves in Little Cayman.
Scientists from the Central Caribbean Marine Institute have taken measurements and collected tissue samples from the whale in an effort to confirm the identification of the species.
The Gervais beaked whale is not uncommon in Caribbean waters, though they are elusive and rarely seen.
According to Samantha Hamilton of CCMI, the whale, which measured roughly 12 feet and resembles a large dolphin, is the most commonly stranded in North America.
She said whale strandings typically occur when the animal is sick or in response to environmental cues, such as toxic red tides.
Whales have also been known to strand themselves en masse, when one member of a pod beaches. Whale strandings have been recorded throughout history, though more recently military sonar had been highlighted as a potential cause of beaked whales beaching themselves.
Ms Hamilton said CCMI found out about the whale, which was discovered by residents last month, through pictures circulating on the Internet.
She contacted experts at the Smithsonian museum and at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the U.S., which provided her with an identification guide to beaked whales. From the location of the teeth and the length of the head, known as the rostrum, CCMI staff concluded that it was a Gervais beaked whale.
Researchers waded into the mangroves to take samples to send to the Smithsonian in order to verify the identification.
“The range of this whale does include the Cayman Islands. It is a species that is quite commonly found to wash up ashore,” added Ms Hamilton.