Featured Image Credit: Roland Edler, Duisburg Zoo
Have you ever head of the True’s beaked whale? Bet you haven’t….that is how rare this whale really is.
The True’s beaked whale (Mesoplodon mirus) is a poorly known member of the family Ziphiidae, second largest family of cetaceans (which includes whales, dolphins, and porpoises). Very little is known about this cetacean, its distribution, abundance, and calving rate. However, an international team of researchers has now obtained the first images of a calf along with the first underwater video of this rare whale, and also described a new coloration for the species.
Residing mostly in the North Atlantic and in the Southern Hemisphere, there is a surprisingly large gap in the True’s beaked whale distribution between these regions. Due to the lack of data on this mammal, this gap might actually be nonexistent, or it could be very real.
A research team led by Dr. Natacha Aguilar de Soto of the University of St. Andrews and the University of La Laguna think that the Azores, and to a lesser extent the Canary Islands, may actually be a hot-spot for the study of True’s beaked whales.
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Dr. Aguilar de Soto and her colleagues gathered stranding data and sightings performed by other scientists, whale watch companies and educational teams in Azores and Canary Islands.
Data collected by Dr. Aguilar de Soto and her colleagues include the first underwater video of True’s beaked whales and photos of a very young calf, as well as a stranded whale, confirmed genetically as a True’s beaked whale but showing a coloration pattern never observed before in this species.
These data are highly valuable to learn more about recognizing True’s beaked whales at sea, something which is essential for studies of their distribution and abundance.
“The recording of several observations of this species in deep but relatively coastal waters off the Azores and the Canary Islands suggests that these archipelagos may be unique locations to study the behavior of the enigmatic True’s beaked whale,” Dr. Aguilar de Soto and co-authors said.