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    Necropsy planned for rare pygmy sperm whale found on Ipswich beach

    Ipswich Police Department
    A pygmy sperm whale washed ashore in Ipswich Tuesday and died shortly after running aground.

    The rare pygmy sperm whale that washed up on an Ipswich beach and later died will be taken to the New England Aquarium for an necropsy, an official said.

    The 9½-foot-long, 800-pound whale was alive when beach-goers discovered it on Steep Hill Beach at around 12:15 p.m., according to a statement from aquarium spokesman Tony LaCasse.

    Officials from the aquarium and the Seacoast Science Center in Rye, N.H., arrived at the scene to conduct a biological field assessment, the statement said.

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    “The stocky bodied-whale with a shark-like head was bloodied, but it is unclear whether those injuries may have been sustained from thrashing about in the shallow water,” the statement said.

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    The carcass will be transported to the New England Aquarium’s necropsy facility in Quincy late Tuesday night or early Wednesday, according to the statement.

    A team of biologists will look for signs of trauma that may have been caused by a collision with a boat because “pygmy whales are known to often float motionless at the surface in small groups,” the statement said.

    They will also assess whether the whale ingested plastic debris that may have obstructed its intestinal tract.

    Ashley Stokes, a spokeswoman for the Seacost Science Center, told the Globe a thorough investigation is especially important because it’s uncommon to find a freshly dead whale on the beach.

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    “They’re not generally up in this area,” she said. “They’re rare north of Cape Cod.”

    Officials will most likely have more information about the whale’s cause of death in the next few days, according to Stokes.

    She said if anyone finds a living or dead marine mammal, they should keep away from it and call the Marine Mammal Rescue Team hotline immediately at 603-997-9448.

    When officials found the small dolphin-like whale, it was pretty scraped up on its side, said Ashley Stokes, a Seacoast Science Center spokeswoman.

    “It does look like those scrapes on the underside are from the animal coming into shore, scraping up on the sand, and moving around, and being washed in and out of the waves,” Stokes said.

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    Although the whale hasn’t been officially examined yet, LaCasse said pigmy sperm whales often die of “major plastics ingestion problems.”

    “Their primary food is squid, and if there’s a large plastic bag floating in the water, it’ll undulate a lot like a squid or a jelly. That causes blockages,” he said. “We would not be surprised to find some of this here in the necropsy.”

    “It’s an unfolding story, and we’re working to put the pieces together,” she said.

    Elise Takahama can be reached at elise.takahama@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @elisetakahama. Amanda Kaufman can be reached at amanda.kaufman@globe.com.