World’s Rarest Whale: spade-toothed beaked whale seen for first time in New Zealand

Filed in Animals, Science, World by on November 6, 2012 0 Comments

World’s rarest whale that is almost unknown to science has been seen for the first time after two individuals; a mother  (17 feet or 5.3 meters long) and her male calf (11 feet  or 3.5 m long) were stranded and died on Opape Beach on the North Island of New Zealand. A report in the November 6th issue of Current Biology offers the first complete description of the spade-toothed beaked whale also called (Mesoplodon traversii), a species previously known only from a few bones.

World's rarest whale spade-toothed beaked whale

Image Credit: New Zealand Department of Conservation

The spade-toothed beaked whale is one of the ocean’s most mysterious creatures. Known to science only because of a trio of partial skulls that have washed up on beaches in Chile and New Zealand, the creature is largely a mystery.

When they were found in 2010, the mother whale and her calf were initially misidentified as a far more common related species, Gray’s beaked whales. That’s understandable, since no one had ever seen a spade-toothed beaked whale before but because of a New Zealand program that tracks the creatures who wind up beached on the nation’s shores, DNA evidence later demonstrated that the beaked whale and her calf were in fact the two first specimens of the spade-toothed beaked whale ever seen.

While it may be hard to believe that a marine mammal that is about 15 feet long; has gone all but unidentified by science, the very fact provides a reminder that the world’s oceans hold all sorts of things we have no idea about yet. The new images and measurements for the whales may not be a lot to go on, but they will give researchers a better point of reference for what these creatures look like and how they may live than they’ve ever had before, hopefully leading to a better understanding of these practically unknown animals.



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