Did the Oil Spill Kill a Sperm Whale?

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Reinhard Dirscherl/Visuals Unlim/Visuals Unlimited/Corbis

Think BP’s PR couldn’t possibly get worse? It turns out the company’s oil spill may have just killed an endangered animal.

On Tuesday, the body of a 25-foot-long endangered sperm whale was found floating 77 miles south of the Deepwater Horizon spill. Obviously correlation does not imply causation: just because a dead whale was found near an oil spill does not mean the whale was killed by said oil spill. But consider this: though the whale was found in oil-free water, the deep-water canyon from which oil is currently gushing has long been a popular habitat for Gulf whales. (Oil is toxic to the creatures.)

Marine biologists estimate that there are currently around 1,700 whales living in the Gulf. In the past five years, they have observed only five or six whale deaths.

The whale carcass was decayed and covered in shark bites, making it difficult to determine the cause of death. The scientists will try to analyze currents in the Gulf to try to determine if the animals died in an oil-heavy area. As CNN points out, if oil did kill the whale it would be incredibly ironic. America’s addiction to petroleum was originally a good thing for whales — it replaced our rapacious desire for whale oil, which was driving whales to extinction. (via New York Times)