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Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Mystery whale known only from specimens found living in the wild

n the waters off Madagascar, scientists have at last encountered living members of a species of whale known only from old, dead specimens. Shaped like a sleek torpedo, with unusual asymmetrical markings, the elusive Omura’s whale has for the first time been documented in photos, videos, and audio recordings.
In the 1970s, scientists initially classified eimadaght whales killed by Japanese whalers in the eastern Indian and western Pacific oceans as Bryde’s whales (Balaenoptera edeni). Measuring between 33 and 38 feet long, the animals were considered smaller “pygmy” Bryde’s whales, which usually measure around 45 feet long.
It wasn’t until 2003 that another team of researchers, examining DNA evidence from the eight whaling specimens and a stranded animal, concluded that the whales actually belonged to a new-to-science species that came to be called Omura’s whale (B. omurai). Subsequent studies have identified other stranded or hunted animals as members of the same species based on DNA and skeletal evidence...


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