Emaciated fin whales wash up dead in Saint-Hilaire-de-Riez, France, Monday, November 16.
Marine biologists are investigating the deaths of at least six whales found washed up on France's western shores with no apparent sign of having been hit by a ship or caught in a trawler's net.
Researchers used a mechanical digger and long knives to dissect a fin whale, the second largest species of whale after the blue whale, taking samples they believe might reveal evidence of a viral pathogen.
In an average year, three to 10 whales wash up dead on France's beaches, they say.
The common fin whales had all died within the past six weeks. All were malnourished and showed evidence of hemorrhaging in the cardiac and respiratory systems.