New Video of a Nearly Unknown Whale Species

New Video of a Nearly Unknown Whale Species

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First scientific observations in the wild ever of Omura’s whales (Balaenoptera omurai). This species was only first identified as a distinct species in 2003 from the DNA of dead specimens.

Currently known only from whaling and stranding specimens primarily from the western Pacific and eastern Indian Oceans, there exist no confirmed field observations or ecological/behavioural data.

Least known species

Dr Salvatore Cerchio of the New England Aquarium and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and an international team of whale biologists have just released images and detailed descriptions of the first scientific observations in the wild ever of Omura’s whales, one of the least known species of whales in the world. So little is known about the Omura’s that scientists are unsure of how many exist or how rare the species is.

Frequent observations were made of lunge feeding, possibly on zooplankton. Observations of four mothers with young calves, and recordings of a song-like vocalization probably indicate reproductive behaviour. Social organisation consisted of loose aggregations of predominantly unassociated single individuals spatially and temporally clustered.

Photographic recapture of a female re-sighted the following year with a young calf suggests site fidelity or a resident population. Our results demonstrate that the species is a tropical whale without segregation of feeding and breeding habitat, and is probably non-migratory.

Royal Society Open Science