A massive dead finback whale that washed up off the coast of southern Italy last week has been identified as "one of the largest" of its species to ever be found in the Mediterranean Sea.
The Italian Coast Guard said in a Facebook post shared last Wednesday that officials discovered the carcass on Jan. 17 off the harbor of Sorrento, near Naples.
Recap: Mediterranean's largest whale found dead off southern Italy
According to local reports, coast guard officials located the dead mammal — which reportedly weighed over 77 tons and measured about 65 feet — after a young whale calf swam into the harbor in distress. The calf reportedly rammed its head into the harbor walls several times before going back underwater. When divers followed it, they discovered the carcass of the adult whale.
The Italian Coast Guard said that officials are continuing to look for the whale calf.
The dead finback whale eventually floated to the surface on Tuesday night and was recovered the next day by two Italian Coast Guard boats that navigated the sea for several hours, according to reports.
The deceased mammal was referred to in the Italian Coast Guard's Facebook post as "one of the largest specimens of whales identified in the Mediterranean."
According to BBC News, officials said that a necropsy for the whale will be carried out by marine biologists and other experts who are investigating the cause of death.
Local reports said that officials also plan to put the whale's skeleton on display in a museum.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), finback whales are the second-largest animals on Earth, after the blue whale. They weigh up to 80 tons, grow up to 75 to 85 feet and typically live for 80 to 90 years.
Finback whales are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act and depleted under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Currently, there are an estimated 14,000 to 18,000 whales located in the Pacific Ocean and around 82,000 in the southern hemisphere.
Threats to the whale species, as listed by the NOAA, include entanglement in fishing gear, vessel strikes, lack of prey due to overfishing, and ocean noise.
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