Pygmy killer whale (Feresa attenuata)

Age Class Adult
Gender Female
Date Stranded August 29, 2018
Location of Stranding Clearwater, Florida
Date of Arrival August 29, 2018
Number of Days of Care 8 days

Final Disposition

Lightning, and another whale Thunder, upon arrival at Mote's Dolphin, Whale and Sea Turtle Hospital


Learn about Lightning's rescue and arrival at Mote here

Lightning stranded in Clearwater and arrived at Mote with another pygmy killer whale, nicknamed Thunder. Read about Thunder here


9/5/2018: We are sad to say that Lightning died around 9 a.m. Sept. 5. Lightning was the sickest of the three recently stranded whales recently entering Mote's care. She repeatedly struggled to swim on her own, showed no interest in food, and was being treated for pneumonia, parasites known as nasotrema, and gastric issues. Her specific cause of death is not known. While we are sad that Lightning has passed, we are working quickly to learn as much as we can from her, both to benefit the knowledge of pygmy killer whales for conservation, and to benefit the care of our other pygmy killer whales in hospital settings. Lightning is being transported to the University of Florida for a necropsy, with participation of UF and Mote staff, and for UF's advanced diagnostic imaging to better understand her anatomy, physiology, illness and ultimately her demise. Lightning’s skeleton will be preserved in Mote’s Ruth DeLynn Cetacean Osteological Collection to further advance knowledge of her species. 

9/3/2018: Lightning still requires support and encouragement from Mote hospital staff to continue swimming. Lightning is not voluntarily eating was able to tolerate staff-assisted feeding of herring. Staff have presumed Lightning is a female. Sex determination in this offshore, shy species is more difficult than for other species we encounter often. 

8/31/2018: Lightning is still receiving 24/7 care and monitoring by Mote hospital staff. Lightning is currently not eating, although the whale is receiving fluid therapy and treatment for gastric issues, parasites and bacterial infection based on the latest lab work. Lightning still needs support encouragement from Mote staff to continue swimming. 

8/30/2018: Lightning made it through his first night in critical care at Mote. While Lightning's fellow rescued whale Thunder was able to start swimming unsupported, Lightning had a rougher night, and still needs to be supported in the water by animal care staff. 

8/29/2018: Lightning arrives at Mote Marine Laboratory, transported by Clearwater Marine Aquarium from its stranding location in Clearwater. Lightning is in a medical pool at Mote, being supported by Mote's hospital team. Lightning is in critical condition and animal care staff are working hard to stablize the whale. Lightning received the nickname due to arriving at Mote in the middle of a severe thunderstorm.


Critical care for just one whale costs thousands of dollars per day — and Mote is caring for two. At the same time, the Lab as a whole is responding to multiple ecological emergencies: the long-lasting red tide bloom along southwest Florida requiring intensive monitoring, research and outreach; the related spike in wildlife mortality that demands attention at virtually all hours; and a record outbreak of coral disease in the Florida Keys requiring unprecedented, scientific response.

While emergency government aid is helping with parts of our response efforts, it cannot close the gap facing Mote as a nonprofit. Community support can make all the difference in helping Mote address these emergencies issues. Visit this page to support these critical efforts.


Pygmy killer whales are considered "naturally rare" by NOAA Fisheries. Check out more information about this species here.

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