Research Group Discovers New Beaked Whale Species in Okhotsk Sea

Unidentified beaked whales sighted in the Nemuro Strait. Credit: Tadasu K. Yamada et al., Scientific Reports. August 30, 2019

In a collaboration between the National Museum of Nature and Science, Hokkaido University, Iwate University, and the United States National Museum of Natural History, a beaked whale species which has long been called Kurotsuchikujira (black Baird’s beaked whale) by local Hokkaido whalers has been confirmed as the new cetacean species Berardius minimus (B. minimus).

Beaked whales prefer deep ocean waters and have a long diving capacity, making them hard to see and inadequately understood. The Stranding Network Hokkaido, a research group founded and managed by Professor Takashi F. Matsuishi of Hokkaido University, collected six stranded unidentified  along the coasts of the Okhotsk Sea.

The whales shared characteristics of B. bairdii (Baird’s beaked whale) and were classified as belonging to the same genus Berardius. However, a number of distinguishable external characteristics, such as  and color, led the researchers to investigate whether these beaked whales belong to a currently unclassified species.

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