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Scientists capture first-ever video of incredibly rare beaked whales

Wednesday, March 8, 2017 12:26
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Because it dives so deep, the True´s beaked whale is almost never seen and consequently, scientists have little information regarding the species’ numbers, range and reproduction rate, information vital for conservation efforts.

Thanks to newly acquired images of the whale published in a new study, researchers have now discovered a new coloration motif in the species. The pictures are actually the first underwater footage of these whales, which could help to unravel the secrets of this species.

Published by the journal PeerJ, the study collected stranding information and sightings conducted by researchers, whale watch companies and educational teams in Azores and Canary Islands. This information included the first underwater footage of the species and photos of a young calf. The study also included data on a stranded whale genetically confirmed as a True´s beaked whale, but with a coloration pattern never viewed before in this species.

All of this information is very useful in the effort to spotting more True´s beaked whales at sea, something which is crucial for determining their range and abundance. It is also the first time that this species has been identified using genetic information, allowing for conclusive links between coloration and the species.

Incredibly rare creatures

Many of the 22 species of beaked whales are quite mysterious and are among the least understood mammals on the planet. This lack of information is underlined by the fact that just three new species of beaked whales have been found in the last 20 years.

To view beaked whales in the ocean is such an uncommon event that many scientists dedicating their life to the study of whales have never seen one. Residing in deep waters, generally far offshore, these mammals spend around 92 percent of their time underwater, making them essentially invisible to humans.

“Imagine,” study author Natacha Aguilar de Soto told The Washington Post, “these are animals the size of elephants that we just can’t find. They’re a mystery.”

Beaked whales eat at depths close to 2 miles and stay down for up to 2 hours. After these dives, they rest, executing shorter and shallower dives with quick surfacing periods. These behaviors, along with the fact that beaked whales congregate small groups, are not generally drawn to boats and do not carry out aerial acrobatics like dolphins, result in beaked whales being hard to find at sea. Furthermore, many beaked whales have varied color motifs that may be similar to those of other whale species, making their identification even harder.


Image credit: Roland Edler

The post Scientists capture first-ever video of incredibly rare beaked whales appeared first on Redorbit.
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