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Omura's Whales Filmed Finally in a Case of Mistaken Identity

Image: Omura's Whales Filmed Finally in a Case of Mistaken Identity
(Salvatore Cerchio)

By    |   Tuesday, 03 Nov 2015 07:18 AM

Omura's whales, an elusive species, have been filmed for the first time off the coast of Madagascar by biologists who had mistakenly believed they were a different kind of whale.

The whales were often thought to be another species until genetic data confirmed they were determined to be actually a separate species in 2003, reported the Washington Post. But the small whales with unique jaw markings, have been mostly inconspicuous and never filmed.

Scientists last month published research in the journal Royal Society Open Science on the misidentified whales.

"Prior to our discovery of Omura's whales in Madagascan waters, there was a complete absence of field data on this species," said the study.

Salvatore Cerchio, who led the research while at the Wildlife Conservation Society, said before the Madagascar sighting there had been only a few unconfirmed sightings of the whales since 2003.

"They appear to occur in remote regions and are difficult to find at sea because they are small — they range in length from approximately 33 to 38 feet — and do not put up a prominent blow," said Cerchio, who is now at the New England Aquarium.

According to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, researchers noticed increased sighting of the whales 2013, which led them to believe the whales were actually Omura's whales.

"Over a two-year period, the researchers observed 44 groups and were able to collect skin biopsies from 18 adult whales," said the institute. "The samples were then sent to coauthor Alec Lindsay at Northern Michigan University who performed the DNA analysis that confirmed the whales' species."

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Omura's whales, an elusive species, have been filmed for the first time off the coast of Madagascar by biologists who had mistakenly believed they were a different kind of whale.
omuras, whales, filmed
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2015-18-03
Tuesday, 03 Nov 2015 07:18 AM
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