Pilot whales have died on a mass stranding in Scotland, over fifty including infants and pregnant females.

Marine wildlife rescuers along with police and the coast guard were called to Traigh Mhor beach on northwest Scotland on Sunday, with reports that dozens of whales had gone around there. When they arrived, they found 55 pilot whales in the sand. 15 were still alive. Rescuers were able to attempt to refloat two who still showed signs of strength, but none survived. The decision was made to euthanize the few remaining on Sunday afternoon, after considering the conditions and how long the whales had been out of the water.

Whales’ bodies are designed to be supported by water. When on land, that lack of support leads to their own body mass crushing their organs and sometimes even bones. Anything more than a few hours, even in ideal conditions, can be fatal. Even if the still-living whales had been returned to the water, the damage was already done.

According to the British Divers Marine life Rescue, the group who came to the whales’ aid, pilot whales are particularly prone to mass strandings.

“Pilot whales are notorious for their strong social bonds, so often when one whale gets into difficulty and strands, the rest follow,” it said in a statement. “A sad outcome for this pod and obviously not the outcome we were all hoping for.”

Work began Monday to carry out a post-mortem on the pilot whales and determine what caused their deaths.

“In terms of the number of casualty animals, this is the biggest one we’ve had,” said Andrew Brownlow, from the Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme who will be doing the post-mortem work.

Experts will take samples and data from some of the whales, and the bodies will be taken to a landfill site and buried after the post-mortem is complete, he added.