New York Daily News: BROOKLYN, By Leonard Greene – A rare gypsy sperm whale died after it beached itself on a Brooklyn shore, according to animal conservationists.

Only 18 pygmy sperm whales are known to have ever been stranded in New York over the last 40 years, according to the The New York Marine Rescue Group which responded to the call Sunday about the unusual sighting on Plumb Beach.

Beachgoers tried to help the whale before authorities arrived.

“It had been pushed back in the water a couple of times,” said Rob DiGiovanni, founder and chief scientist at the Long Island-based Atlantic Marine Conservation Society.

Despite their efforts and the work of the response team, the animal died the next day, DiGiovanni said.

A necropsy showed that the whale died from natural causes, according to DiGiovanni, but an investigation was still underway to determine more about the death and to see what can be learned about the surrounding environment.

DiGiovanni said the male pygmy sperm whale was 9 feet long, He said the species can grow as long as 11 feet.

“It had been eating, but it was underweight,” DiGiovanni explained.

Although it is called a whale, he said it has more in common with a dolphin. It is a toothed whale named after the waxy substance — spermaceti — found in its head, that helps the whale focus sound.

Like squid, pygmy sperm whales can produce a dark, ink-like liquid that helps them escape from predators, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Another defense mechanism is its resemblance to a shark, said Paul Sieswerda, executive director of New York’s Gotham Whale, a marine life advocacy group.

Sieswerda said the pygmy sperm whale has shark-like markings and colorations that scare other predators away.

A whale nicknamed Sludgie received much fanfare when it wandered into the notoriously filthy Gowanus Canal in 2007, and tragically died.

Although the nickname was a pollution-filled play on Carvel’s Fudgie the Whale ice cream treat, it turned out that it wasn’t the canal’s toxic stew that killed the 12-foot baby Minke. Marine experts said it was already sick when it entered the canal.

That didn’t stop locals from using the whale’s likeness two years later in a logo for their campaign to convince the US Environmental Protection Agency to launch a Superfund cleanup of the Gowanus Canal.

Top Feature Photo: A rare pygmy sperm whale beached itself in Brooklyn – NOAA