The world’s rarest whale, the spade-toothed beaked whale, has been spotted for the first time in New Zealand, where the two whales had stranded themselves.
The two spade-toothed beaked whales, a mother and calf, had been stranded and diedd on the Opape Beach on the North Island of New Zealand in December 2010. The mother was 17 feet long and the calf was 11 feet long.
In the November 6 issue of the Current Biology journal includes a report describing the whales and the analysis of their DNA. Rochelle Constantine, a marine biologist a the University of Auckland says, “up until now, all we have known about the spade-toothed beaked whale was from three partial skulls collected from New Zealand and Chile over a 140-year period. It is remarkable that we know almost nothing about such a large mammal.”
The animals were thought to be much more common Gray’s beaked wales. The routine DNA analysis, which was done as part of a 20-year program, the identity of the rare whale came to light. New Zealand is a known hot spot for whale stranding and has the highest rates and greatest diversities of stranded whale species in the world. The New Zealand Department of Conservation photographed the animals and collected tissue samples.
“When these specimens came to our lab, we extracted the DNA as we usually do for samples like these, and we were very surprised to find that they were spade-toothed beaked whales,” says Constantine, “We ran the samples a few times to make sure before we told everyone.”
Researchers are unsure why the large whales are so inconspicuous and rare. A possible reason is that the animal is an offshore species and lives deep in the ocean waters.
Signed, Shanika Simmons