Researchers consider they’ve discovered a beforehand unknown species of beaked whale in waters off Mexico’s western coast. If confirmed, the brand new species would mark a major discovery amongst large mammals.
The group of researchers stumbled on three uncommon specimens whereas monitoring a unique, uncommon species of sometimes shy beaked whales on Nov. 17 close to Mexico’s distant San Benito Islands, about 500 kilometres south of the U.S. border.
“These animals popped to the surface right next to the boat,” mentioned Jay Barlow, a marine mammal biologist on the Scripps Establishment of Oceanography in San Diego.
“It was just a phenomenal encounter. It’s very rare to even see a beaked whale, and to find a friendly group of beaked whales, it’s even rarer,” he mentioned.
Barlow and his colleagues on the journey, led by the non-profit Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, didn’t notice they had been seeing a possible new species till later when finding out pictures they took of the animals. The whales’ enamel had been unusually positioned, he mentioned.
Underwater recordings of the whales’ calls additionally recommended they had been distinctive, based on Barlow.
The scientists at the moment are awaiting the evaluation of water samples that might maintain pores and skin cells for doable DNA testing to verify whether or not the whales are a brand new species.
Beaked whales — named for his or her pointy, dolphin-like snouts — are discovered largely in distant waters, equivalent to off the San Benito Islands.
Although as much as 5 metres (16.four ft) lengthy, they are often laborious for scientists to watch as they have an inclination to swim and feed largely at depths of round 914 metres (3,000 ft), surfacing solely sometimes for air. At such depths, the animals have a greater likelihood of avoiding their primary predator, killer whales.
“The fact that they were looking for a very rare whale, and that they happen to find something completely different is remarkable and wonderful, and just the joy of doing science,” mentioned Andrew Learn, a marine biologist at Duke College. “That’s what we all live for.”
DNA testing wanted to verify
Learn mentioned that whereas figuring out a brand new species is a uncommon occasion, the findings described by Barlow’s group appear according to a novel discovery. He mentioned DNA testing can be wanted to supply a conclusive reply.
Barlow was “cautiously optimistic” concerning the likelihood of confirming the newly encountered animals as a brand new species. That will carry the variety of recognized beaked whale species to 24.
“It is a huge animal, the weight of a Clydesdale horse. Imagine something that big in the terrestrial realm going undiscovered,” he mentioned.
“But there’s a lot of mysteries in the sea.”