Thursday, 4 August 2016

Rare Black Whale Discovered in Pacific

By Laura Geggel, Senior Writer | August 2, 2016 01:00pm ET

The only complete skeleton of the newfound whale species is on display at Unalaska High School, in the Alaskan Aleutian Islands. The whale was found in 2004, and students helped prepare the specimen.

The discovery of a new species of rare and elusive whale in the North Pacific shows how little humans know about the deep and vast ocean, researchers say.

The 24-foot-long (7 meters) beaked whale is full of mystery, said the study's lead researcher, Phillip Morin, a molecular geneticist at Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla, California.

"We've only ever seen it from dead animals that have washed up on the beach," Morin told Live Science. "We only get bits and pieces of evidence from each of these animals."

A skull of the newly identified species that's been housed at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., since 1948. Back then, researchers thought it was another species of whale.

The still-unnamed whale lives in the cold Pacific waters spanning from northern Japan to the Aleutian Islands in Alaska, the researchers said. 

The whale came to the scientists' attention after they read a 2013 study describing three mysterious dead whales that had washed ashore in northern Japan. The specimens were genetically distinct from the common Baird beaked whale (Berardius bairdii), which lives in the North Pacific, but the study researchers weren't sure whether it was a completely new species.

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