Tuesday, August 02, 2016

New Species of Whale Confirmed

a drawing of the "raven" whale; AP
Japanese fishermen call them "ravens". They report seeing a black whale with a bulbous head and beaked jaw similar to a dolphin roaming the northern Pacific.  Scientists recently confirmed the existence of a new species of whale previously unknown. A paper was published by NOAA scientists describing the creature in the journal Marine Mammal Science.

Japanese researchers sampled the tissue of three beaked whales washed ashore on the northern coast of Hokkaido in 2013. After analyzing the samples and comparing them with 178 beaked whale specimens in NOAA's collection, the NOAA scientists determined the Japanese samples were genetically unique based on their mtDNA haplotype, backing the claim about the mysterious ravens uniqueness. A few examples of the raven whale were found in NOAA's search among the remains. A skull was found in 1948 in the Aleutians. Los Angeles County Museum has a specimen. A tissue sample was taken in 2004 from a beached whale in Unalaska before local students and teachers put the skeleton on display at the high school. An intact carcass was found on St. George's beach in Alaska's Pribilof Islands in 2014 prompting US scientists to undertake the molecular analysis.

The yet unnamed creature ( US thinks it should include the original Japanese name of karasu, or raven) is two-thirds the size of Baird's beaked whale which it resembles most. Karasu is a member of the genus Berardius which includes giant beaked whales. It travels in small groups, rarely surfaces, and is hard to locate. Japanese scientists are in the process of formally describing the creature and naming it for science.