New Species of Beaked Whale Identified

Posted on July 31, 2016

black new beaked whale species

A new species of beaked whale has been identified by an international team of scientists. The whale ranges from northern Japan across the Pacific Ocean to Alaska's Aleutian Islands. The black whale is called karasu by Japanese whalers. This is the Japanese word for raven.

Researchers studied 178 beaked whales and found eight examples of the new species. An earlier Japanese study labeled the whale as a dwarf Baird's beaked whale. Genetic DNA evidence has revealed it is actually a separate species of whale.

Phillip Morin, a molecular biologist at NOAA Fisheries' Southwest Fisheries Science Center and lead author of the new study, says in a statement, "The challenge in documenting the species was simply locating enough specimens to provide convincing evidence. Clearly this species is very rare, and reminds us how much we have to learn about the ocean and even some of its largest inhabitants."

The photograph below shows the only skeleton of the new whale species. It is currently hanging in Unalaska High School in Alaska's Aleutian Islands.

skeleton of newly identified beaked whale species


Erich Hoyt us a research fellow with Whale and Dolphin Conservation (UK) and co-director of the Russian Cetacean Habitat Project. He is also a co-author of the study. Hoyt says, "The implication of a new species of beaked whale is that we need to reconsider management of both species to be sure they're sufficiently protected, considering how rare the new one appears to be. Discovering a new species of whale in 2016 is exciting but it also reveals how little we know and how much more work we have to do to truly understand these species."

The beaked whale belongs in the genus Berardius. A research paper on the findings was published here in the journal, Marine Mammal Science.

Image: Uko Gorter/Natural History Illustration
Photo: Unalaska City School District