Japanese scientists confirm new whale species after DNA tests

New whale species called the ‘Black Baird’s beaked whale’ is discovered off the coast of Japan

  • Researchers tested the remains of six stranded, unidentified, beaked whales
  • They had washed up on the coasts of the Okhotsk Sea, in the north Pacific Ocean
  • Species of beaked whale are hard to document as they prefer deep ocean waters and have a long diving capacity

Japanese scientists have confirmed that a new whale species has been identified as ‘Black Baird’s beaked whale’ after carrying out DNA testing.

The new species has often been spotted by whalers in the north Pacific Ocean but it has never before been officially recognised as it continued to elude researchers.

But the carcasses of several unidentified whales continued to wash up on the shores of Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island, while others were caught by fishing vessels.

Japanese scientists have confirmed a new whale species identified as ‘Black Baird’s beaked whale’ after carrying out DNA testing

The new species of whale has often been spotted by whalers in the north Pacific Ocean but it has never before been officially recognised as it continued to elude researchers

Researchers were able to carry out DNA testing on the remains of six stranded beaked whales that were found on the coasts of the Okhotsk Sea.

They then discovered that they were in fact a complete new species – identified as Black Baird’s beaked whale (Berardius minimus).

This new species is similar to the Baird’s beaked whale but is instead is smaller, is darker in colour and has a shorter beak. 

But they were able to carry out DNA testing on the remains of six stranded, unidentified, beaked whales that were found on the coasts of the Okhotsk Sea

The maximum body size recorded among the black species so far is 6.9 metres, compared to 10 metres among their better-known cousins.

All species of beaked whale are hard to document since they prefer deep ocean waters and have a long diving capacity. 

Professor Takashi Matsuishi of Hokkaido University led the research team.

He said: ‘There are still many things we don’t know about [this species].

‘We still don’t know what adult females look like and there are still many questions related to species distribution, for example. 

‘We hope to continue expanding what we know.’  

This new species is similar to the Baird’s beaked whale but is instead is smaller, is darker in colour and has a shorter beak. The maximum body size recorded among the black species so far is 6.9 metres (top), compared to 10 metres among their better-known cousins (bottom)

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