A grim find off the coast of Mexico is actually turning out to be a rare opportunity for the scientific community. The bodies of conjoined gray whale twins were discovered last weekend on the Baja California peninsula.
The calves each had their own head and tail, but were joined together at the abdomen. They were about seven feet long, which is significantly smaller than typical gray whale calves. NOAA research biologist Kerri Danil told HLN affiliate WTSP that there has never been a documented discovery of conjoined gray whale twins.
"I haven't found any documentation in the literature for gray whales, so this might be the first," she told the station.
Scientists will try to determine whether the calves were stillborn, and how long they lived in the water if they were not.
"You can look at the tissues to tell whether or not the animals ever took a breath of air, so they'll be able to tell whether it was a still birth or whether the animals actually surfaced afterwards and lived for some time possibly," she said to WTSP.
The bizarre discovery was filmed and several videos were posted on YouTube:
Conjoined twin births have rarely been observed in dolphins and other marine mammals, and even normal twin births are highly irregular. Danil told WTSP that even if the recently discovered calves had been born alive, because of their positions, they wouldn't have been able to swim.
"It is sad," she said. "But it's a part of life and there's so much you can learn from them."