Tuesday, November 6, 2012

World's rarest whale: Marine mammal seen for first time

Photo: New Zealand Government[/caption]
The world’s rarest whale has been seen in New Zealand for the first time since the species was discovered almost a hundred and fifty years ago.

A dead mother and male calf were washed up on a beach in New Zealand in 2010. Back then the whales were misidentified as similarly looking Gray's whales. Their remains were buried. Later research revealed there had been a mistake.

This year, researchers exhumed the skeletons for more tests. After a thorough DNA analysis the scientists are sure they were spade-toothed beaked whales, The Daily Telegraph reports.

It is the first time whole whale of this species have been seen. The only other time the continued existence of the animals was hinted at was when two partial skulls were found in New Zealand in the 1950s and in Chile in 1986.

"This is the first time this species — a whale over five meters in length — has ever been seen as a complete specimen, and we were lucky enough to find two of them,”
says Dr Rochelle Constantine of the University of Auckland.

The remains of the then unknown animal were first discovered in 1872 on a distant island in the Pacific Ocean. The animal was described and yet managed to hide from human eyes for all these years. Scientists say it is because these animals spend most of their lives in the deep waters of the Pacific, rarely visiting the surface. No one ever saw this whale alive.

"It may be that they are simply an offshore species that lives and dies in the deep ocean waters and only rarely wash ashore. New Zealand is surrounded by massive oceans. There is a lot of marine life that remains unknown to us," Dr Constantine explains.
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