Scientists working off the western coast of Mexico say that they have found a new and previously-unknown species of whale.
What is Happening?
- In mid-November, three beaked whales were spotted by a team of scientists working with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society near the San Benito Islands, nearly 500km from the US border.
- A team of beaked whale experts working alongside the team took photographs and video recordings of the three whales, and also recorded their acoustic signals.
- The team had heard an identified acoustic signal previously recorded in the area and were trying to figure out what kind of whale it belonged to.
- The acoustic signal, plus initial analysis of the whales’ characteristics suggests it is a new species, according to the team.
- The expedition team, led by beaked whale researchers Dr. Gustavo Cárdenas Hinojosa from the Marine Mammal Research Group of CONANP, Dr. Jay Barlow, and Dr. Elizabeth Henderson, Leader of the Whale Acoustic Reconnaissance Program of NIWC PAC, is “highly confident” that the animals are a new whale species.
- Genetic sampling will be used to determine if the team is correct.
Barlow says,”We saw something new. Something that was not expected in this area, something that doesn’t match, either visually or acoustically, anything that is known to exist. It just sends chills up and down my spine when I think that we might have accomplished what most people would say was truly impossible — finding a large mammal that exists on this earth that is totally unknown to science.”
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Peter Hammarstedt, Director of Campaigns for Sea Shepherd, says, “Sea Shepherd strongly believes in the critical role that scientific research plays in supporting strong conservation action. To properly protect something, you have to love it; and you cannot love that which you do not know. The discovery of a new species of beaked whale proves how much mystery there is left to discover in the oceans that our captains, crews, and research partners fight to defend.”
Featured image by: Sciencelaert.com