Enormous whale with deformed spine is spotted struggling to swim off Spanish coast

A humungous fin whale spotted struggling through the water off the coast of Spain has been diagnosed with a severe case of scoliosis from an unknown origin.

Veterinarians and biologists of the Valencia oceanarium were alerted last Saturday to the presence of the 55ft-long, 40-ton animal off the coast of the city of Cullera.

It was initially believed the whale had become entangled in a fishing net as it was listing in shallow waters and appeared to be moving with difficulty close to Cullera's lighthouse.

But upon deploying to the scene, the oceanarium team quickly realised the cetacean was not entangled and was in fact suffering with a severely deformed spine which meant it could not swim properly.

Biologists from Valencia's Oceanographic Foundation reported they hoped to fit a tracking device to the whale, which after some time lumbered away from the coastline and back out to sea.

But they said the combination of shallow waters and the whale's highly irregular anatomy meant it was not possible to do so.

The fin whale species is thought to have a global population of between 50,000-90,000, according to the World Wildlife Foundation, and is listed as 'vulnerable'.

Whales are not known to suffer from scoliosis, though there have been instances in which cetaceans have exhibited significant spinal injuries as a result of trauma, for example, following a collision with a ship.

However, a recent study revealed earlier this year that whales developed their incredible size through four genes related to gigantism.

These genes, the researchers said, helped in fostering their great mass but also in mitigating related disadvantageous consequences including higher cancer risk and lower reproductive output.