Tests are being done to determine why three whales died after becoming stranded on a Moray beach.
The young Sowerby’s beaked whales were spotted by a walker at Culbin Forest near Findhorn.
Initial surveys established the rare stranding of the juveniles was not due to them becoming entangled in any equipment and no plastic was found in their bodies.
However, the reason that caused the whales to beach remains a mystery while further tests are done by the Scottish Marine Animal Strandings Scheme.
What do we know about the whales?
The whales were all juveniles and were all stranded on the beach together before being spotted by a walker on Thursday, July 15.
It is believed they came ashore the night before.
The Scottish Marine Animal Strandings Scheme has a remit to examine such incidents to determine the underlying cause of such events and the direct or indirect role humans play in them.
Strandings coordinator Nick Davison said: “We launched a post-mortem investigation at the site because it would be too difficult to shift them elsewhere.
“Our initial findings are that they came ashore live and died on the beach, but as to why we have a bank of ancillary tests which will happen over the coming weeks.
“They are a deep diving species so they are sensitive to underwater noise, they may also have picked up some sort of infection, but we really don’t know at the moment.”
What were the whales doing in the Moray Firth?
Because Sowerby’s beaked whales are a deep diving species they are rarely seen.
The sea mammals’ diet is mainly squid and small fish, making the Moray Firth a perfect environment for them to find food.
They can be found across a large area spanning from the western North Atlantic to Madeira off the coast of Portugal and the Norwegian Sea.
The whales are generally reclusive and stay away from ships, meaning they are not spotted very often.