Specialist say a minke whale that washed ashore on a north-east beach was pregnant and may have stranded before its death.
Experts visited the sands at Whitehills, near Banff, on Monday to conduct an autopsy on the female whale which was found on Sunday night.
Last night Kate Hannigan, coordinator at the Scottish Whale and Dolphin Centre in Moray, revealed the whale had been carrying a calf when it landed.
Describing the incident as “sad and unexpected,” she said the cause of death was likely to have been a reaction to an infection.
“When we first arrived, we noticed that there was a large lump on the whale’s throat. We think it was probably sepsis that killed her,” she said
Her colleague, Nick Davidson of the Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme, confirmed the whale was pregnant with a female calf, which also died.
The youngster was about six and a half-feet in length.
He said bruising on the mother’s blubber suggested she had “live-stranded” at some point, although it was not clear if she was still alive by the time she landed at Whitehills’ beach.
Aberdeenshire Council was still making preparations to remove the carcass from the beach last night.
Officials hope to use a crane to hoist the body away.
A spokesman for the local authority said it was waiting for the right conditions for the operation.
“Moving it is tide-dependent,” he said.
Police Scotland had asked members of the public to not approach the carcass.