Store

The Omura’s whale does exist. Scientists filmed it for the first time ever

Ripreso da un gruppo di biologi al largo delle coste del Madagscar il cetaceo più misterioso degli oceani.

It seems a smile that of the Omura’s whale (Balaenoptera omurai) spotted by an international team of biologists led by the American Salvatore Cerchio, researcher at the New England Aquarium, whilst introducing itself for the first time to the world.

balenottera
Individual of Omura’s whale © Salvatore Cerchio/Royal Society Open Science

The species has only just been classified in 2003, thanks to a carcass found on the coasts of the Sea of Japan. On that occasion, scientists compared its DNA with other 8 different whales, realising it was a species unknown to science.

Since then, the Omura’s whale, named in honour of the Japanese cetologist Hideo Omura, has never appeared again, though. No remains have been found and there have been a small handful of possible sightings of Omura’s whales. The mysterious cetacean seemed to have vanished in the ocean depths, whilst someone started to believe it had gone extinct.

However, just a few days ago, Salvatore Cerchio published an incredible document: the first-ever field observations of the Omura’s whale, alive and in its habitat. The video has been grabbed off the Northern coasts of Madagascar, between 2013 and 2015.

The life and population of these cetaceans are still unknown, due to their small dimensions (10 to 12 metres) and their apparent predilection to remote areas.

“For many years, these marine mammals were misidentified as Bryde’s whales due to their similar appearance,” reads the report by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). “Both are small tropical baleen whales with comparable dorsal fins, though Omura’s are slightly smaller in size and have unique markings with a lower jaw that is white on the right side and dark on the left”.

Illustrazione di balenottera di Omura
Illustration of the Omura’s whale © Rebecca Robinson/NPL

Off the coasts of the African island, the researchers observed for the first time ever living individuals of Omura’s whale, making 44 sightings and collecting samples from some of them. The results of the expedition are contained in an article published by the Royal Society Open Science, describing the whales’ foraging and vocal behaviours.

Translated by

Related articles