New Whale Species

By: Julian Fahrion

 

In July, scientists proved the existence of a new species of beaked whale by showing significant genetic differences between various DNA samples. Though the whale was previously thought to be a form of Baird’s beaked whale, a more common species, its small size and darker coloration set it apart. Scientists took DNA samples from a wide variety of sources ­– including beached corpses and a skeleton in a school gymnasium – to definitively prove that the smaller form of Baird’s beaked whale is a distinct species. The whale was first reported by Japanese fishermen, who referred to the whale as karasu (raven), in reference to its darker skin. A scientific name has not yet been established, but will be decided as the next step in the study of the new beaked whale. However, Japanese whaling only reduces the chances of scientists being able to study a member of this new species alive. Furthermore, beaked whales tend to frequent the deep ocean, causing their carcasses to sink to the ocean floor and making scientific observations difficult. This discovery further highlights the gaps in our understanding of marine life.

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