DIGBY, Nova Scotia (CP) – An autopsy on a 45-ton right whale indicated a ship strike could be the cause of death, officials said Monday.

The dead whale, roughly 10 to 12 years old, was one of about 80 breeding females left in the North Atlantic. The species is on the international endangered list.

“We’ve detected numerous fractures in the lower jawbone and the skull … that would be consistent with a ship strike,” said Amy Knowlton, a research scientist with the New England Aquarium.

Scientists also found a thick substance in the whale’s thoracic cavity.

“It could be very likely congealed, clotted blood,” Knowlton said.

The dead 45-foot whale was first spotted Thursday evening by a fishing vessel about 3.6 miles off Digby in the Bay of Fundy.

A fishing vessel towed the whale ashore Sunday morning.

In the meantime, American researchers from the New England Aquarium and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute were contacted. Scientists arrived by ferry from Maine on Saturday and the autopsy got under way Sunday morning.

“They take the animal apart and try to determine what the cause of death was,” said Conway. “That means looking at all the bones, looking at the blubber, looking at the muscle.”

AP-ES-10-07-03 0950EDT

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