Dear all,

My co-authors and I are happy to announce our new publication on the sperm 
whale mortality event that occurred around the North Sea in 2016 and involved 
30 sperm whales and five countries.

Lonneke L. IJsseldijk, Abbo van Neer, Rob Deaville, Lineke Begeman, Marco van 
de Bildt, Judith M.A. van den Brand, Andrew Brownlow, Richard Czeck, Willy 
Dabin, Mariel ten Doeschate, Vanessa Herder, Helena Herr, Jooske IJzer, Thierry 
Jauniaux, Lasse Fast Jensen, Paul D. Jepson, Wendy Karen Jo, Jan Lakemeyer, 
Kristina Lehnert, Mardik F. Leopold, Albert Osterhaus, Matthew W. Perkins, Uwe 
Piatkowski, Ellen Prenger-Berninghoff, Ralf Pund, Peter Wohlsein, Andrea Gröne 
& Ursula Siebert, Beached bachelors: An extensive study on the largest recorded 
sperm whale Physeter macrocephalus mortality event in the North Sea, PLOS ONE, 
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0201221

Between the 8th January and the 25th February 2016, the largest sperm whale 
Physeter macrocephalus mortality event ever recorded in the North Sea occurred 
with 30 sperm whales stranding in five countries within six weeks. All sperm 
whales were immature males. Groups were stratified by size, with the smaller 
animals stranding in the Netherlands, and the largest in England. The majority 
(n = 27) of the stranded animals were necropsied and/or sampled, allowing for 
an international and comprehensive investigation into this mortality event. The 
animals were in fair to good nutritional condition and, aside from the 
pathologies caused by stranding, did not exhibit significant evidence of 
disease or trauma. Infectious agents were found, including various parasite 
species, several bacterial and fungal pathogens and a novel alphaherpesvirus. 
In nine of the sperm whales a variety of marine litter was found. However, none 
of these findings were considered to have been the primary cause of the 
stranding event. Potential anthropogenic and environmental factors that may 
have caused the sperm whales to enter the North Sea were assessed. Once sperm 
whales enter the North Sea and head south, the water becomes progressively 
shallower (<40 m), making this region a global hotspot for sperm whale 
strandings. We conclude that the reasons for sperm whales to enter the southern 
North Sea are the result of complex interactions of extrinsic environmental 
factors. As such, these large mortality events seldom have a single ultimate 
cause and it is only through multidisciplinary, collaborative approaches that 
potentially multifactorial large-scale stranding events can be effectively 

The publication is open access and can be downloaded from:

Kind regards,
Lonneke IJsseldijk

Lonneke L. IJsseldijk, MSc
Project Manager Cetacean Research
Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Utrecht University
Department of Pathobiology

T +31 30 253 5312, M +31 6 244 556 98

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