The stranded dolphin lying on its side in the sand.

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Risso's dolphin on Great Yarmouth beach is latest UK stranding

A dolphin that washed up on a beach in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk is one of the latest cetaceans to strand in the UK.

Every year, about 500 whales, dolphins and porpoises are recording as having stranded on beaches around the country.

Coastguards in Gorleston were told about the first carcass on Saturday by a member of the public, and posted on social media channels, saying a pod of dolphins had been seen in the area the day before.

It is believed to be a Risso's dolphin (Grampus griseus). The specimen will be taken to the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) for a post mortem, where experts will figure how it died.

Risso's dolphins are a widespread species, and they have been found all over the world from northern Europe to New Zealand. They are happiest in deep waters and eat crustaceans, octopus and squid.

A spokesperson for the Cetacean Strandings Investigations Programme (CSIP) said yesterday, 'The CSIP are returning from Great Yarmouth in Norfolk after recovering the body of a juvenile male Risso's dolphin which was found stranded on Saturday.

'This is an unusual stranding of a normally deeper water species - the last recorded stranding of a Risso's dolphin on the southern North Sea English coast occurred in the 1960s.

'The dolphin appeared to be in a thin condition, which may be linked to its presence in an out of habitat location. Huge thanks to everyone who helped out with the recovery, particularly Kevin Murphy and also Jo Collins and Daniel Goldsmith from British Divers Marine Life Rescue. Necropsy will be carried out at ZSL later this week.'

The Risso's dolphin which was found on 12 May

The Risso's dolphin that was found on 12 May. Image by Gorleston Coastguard.


UK cetacean strandings

Cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) that strand in the UK are usually taken to ZSL for post mortem examinations, but data on all these animals is also held at the Museum.

Marine mammal experts at the Museum started recording cetacean strandings in 1913, in an effort to understand why and when these animals die.

The first recorded strandings was a Cuvier's beaked whale that washed up in Northern Ireland in the summer of 1913. Since then, there have been more than 12,000 logged reports of whale, dolphin and porpoise strandings, that have ranged from blue whales to harbour porpoises.

The Museum is now a partner in the UK Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme, which has expanded to include seals, large-bodied sharks and marine turtles that strand along the UK coastline.

Find out more about what happened to this specimen on the blog.