Researchers have filmed the rare Omura’s
whale off the coast of Madagascar for the first time ever.
Very little is known about this whale,
which was initially mistaken for the Bryde’s whale, due to their somewhat
similar appearance. It was only in 2003 that genetic analysis determined that
they were a different species. However, without any confirmed sightings, almost
nothing was known about this new species—until now.
For two years, researchers have studied
44 groups of Omura’s whales and collected skin samples from 18 of the adult
whales. Biopsies had confirmed that they were indeed Omura’s whales. The
researchers also observed four female adults and their calves, and recorded the
whales’ vocalisations, which may indicate reproductive behaviour.
What was surprising was where the whales
had been found. "From the little information about their habitat and
range, Omura’s whales were not supposed to be in that part of the Indian
Ocean,” said lead author Salvatore
Cerchio, from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute.
Although the researchers gained new
insights about the Omura’s whales, many questions about the whales remain
unanswered, like how many there were and whether the species was endangered.
The population off the coast of Madagascar was simply too small and isolated,
indicating a limited genetic diversity; hence this specific population at least
could be considered endangered. Further research at Madagascar and elsewhere
would be needed to provide deeper understanding into the life and distribution
of this species.
Link to the study: