The spade-toothed beaked whale is so rare, nobody has seen one alive. But scientists are sure it exists.
Two skeletons were identified as belonging to the species after a 17-foot whale and her calf beached themselves in New Zealand in 2010. Scientists hope the discovery will provide insights into the species and into ocean ecosystems.
It was almost a missed opportunity, however, since conservation workers misidentified the carcasses as a much more common type of whale and buried them.
Researchers from New Zealand and the United States describe the discovery in a paper published Tuesday in the journal "Current Biology." They say it's the first time scientists are able to describe the world's "rarest and perhaps most enigmatic" marine mammal.
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