The "black-billed whale" is often seen by whalers in the northern Pacific Ocean, but continues to elude research, so it has never been officially recognized. Carcasses of several unidentified whales continued to appear on the shores of Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost island, while others were caught by fishing vessels. The researchers were able to perform DNA testing on the remains of six beached beaked whales off the Okhotsk Sea.
The results revealed that they were in fact a complete new species, identified as the black-billed whale.
Their discovery revealed that the new species is similar to Baird's whale, but is much smaller, darker in color and shorter in beak.
Dr. Tadasu K. Yamadam, curator of the National Museum of Nature and Science and lead author of the report documenting the new species, explained how whales differ.
He said: "Just by looking at them, we can say that they have a noticeably smaller body size, shaft-shaped body, shorter beak and darker color compared to the known species of Berardius."
The research team states that the appearance of the whale is mostly known by a male individual found on November 10, 2012 in Sarufutsu, Hokkaido.
Detailed skull measurements and DNA analysis further emphasized the significant difference the new whale makes from the other two known species.
Beaked whales are difficult to document as all species prefer deep ocean waters and have a long diving capacity.
The maximum size recorded among the new species so far is 6.9 meters, compared to the more well-known larger cousins at 10 meters.
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The relative of the new whale, the Baird's beaked whale, was named after the 17th century naturalist Spencer F. Baird.
They are known for their impressive deep diving and breath holding capabilities, with documented retention of over an hour at a time.
Hokkaido Japanese whalers described whale spots & # 39; karasu & # 39; or & # 39; crow & # 39 ;.
Researchers are unsure whether this whale is the same as the black-billed whale of the newly described Black Baird.
They do not know if another beaked whales remain in the deep waters off the coast of Japan, waiting to be officially identified.
Research program officer Dee Allen of the US Marine Mammals Commission told Gizmodo: “The fact that we are still discovering new species in our oceans, in this case animals up to 6.9 meters, is what makes science, especially the oceans. science, so exciting "
The discovery of new species of whales comes shortly after Japan resumed its controversial whaling practices after a 33-year hiatus.
Hokkaido is known as one of Japan's most important whaling centers, with many whales based in the port of Kushiro.
Japan joined the global whale conservation body in 1982, halting operations four years later.
The country continued to hunt between 200 and 1,200 whales each year for scientific reasons, later selling the meat for consumption.
Whale eating is seen as part of Japanese culture, although consumption has fallen dramatically since the 1960s.