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Rare beluga skull found on Scottish beach

A rare find that washed up on a Scottish beach on 5th May was formally identified at the National Museum of Scotland this week. A beluga skull was found at Lunan Bay in Angus, south of Montrose on the east coast. Determining a cause of death from the skull alone is unlikely.

This was a surprising find because the last beluga strandings occurred in October 1932 at the Forth River near Stirling and three strandings in 1949.

Belugas are considered a vagrant in UK waters, where sightings are very rare. There have been 12 confirmed observations in the last 50 years, ten of which have been since 1987. These have all been in Scotland or northeast England, the last seven all being from Shetland or the Highland Region.

It is expected that the range of polar marine mammal species, like belugas, will contract with global climate change, as sea-ice contracts and their habitat shrinks.

Thanks to SMASS for letting us know about the finding, to Peter Evans from Sea Watch Foundation for the sightings information and to Zena Timmons at the National History Museum for use of the photos.