The beautiful and elusive Omura’s whale
(Mirror Daily, United States) – Omura, a rare mythical whale is filmed for the first time by a team of marine biologists.
If we, somehow, needed more proof that we still know very little about marine wildlife and the depths of the seas, here it is. The rarest whale in the world has finally been caught on camera off the coast of Madagascar.
Omura’s whale, also called the dwarf fin whale is a rorqual about which very few details are known. It was named after a Japanese cetologist called Hideo Omura. Its scientific description was provided in 2003, for Nature, by three Japanese scientists. They did not see it prior to that, but rather determined its existence scientifically. They analyzed the DNA of nine different whales, eight of which were caught by some research vessels in the 70s in the Pacific and an adult female caught in 1998 near an Island in the Sea of Japan.
When more genetic proof was later discovered, Omura’s whale was confirmed to be a valid species, related to a larger cousin of hers and one more known to us, the blue whale.
Since then, the hunt for at least an image of what this almost mythical whale actually looks like has begun. Many sightings were reported, but they all turned out to be different species. For example, in 2000 an unidentified species of rorqual was seen in the waters of the Komodo Nation Park, but it was later proved to be a pygmy Bride’s.
In the same way, photos of unidentified whales have been taken in 2008 in New Zealand, 2009 in the Solomon Islands, in 2010 off the coast of Guadalcanal and 2012 in Madagascar. None were proven to be Omura’s whale, though. The elusive whale kept on swimming away from us like a mirage.
Until now that is. A team of scientists led by Dr. Cerchio, was conducting some field research on dolphins in the waters off the coast of Madagascar when they first saw the magnificent animal in 2011, but they thought it to be a Bryde’s whale at the time. In 2013, after they moved their research further off coast, the sightings became more frequent.
But, as time progressed, they started noticing that, unlike Bryde’s whales, these ones had very distinct black and white markings all the length of their body. Some of his teammates believed they had discovered a new species, but Dr. Cerchio knew he had finally seen Omura’s whale.
The finding is, of course, unbelievable, in the sense that it seems almost unreal that we are still discovering new species of mammals, and of this size, in 2015.
Image Source: www.ytimg.com