Omura’s whales, new discoveries


This video says about itself:

3 November 2015

This research was published in the journal Royal Society Open Science in the paper: ‘Omura’s whales (Balaenoptera omurai) off northwest Madagascar: ecology, behaviour and conservation needs’ by Cerchio et al. The doi link for the article is here.

From National Geographic:

This Bus-Size Whale Is Even More Unusual Than We Thought

Scientists are starting to piece together the secret life of the little-seen Omura’s whale, which has a peculiar diet.

By Traci Watson

PUBLISHED February 10, 2016

Well after its discovery a decade ago, the sleek swimmer called the Omura’s whale remained an enigma. Reports of live animals were vague and unconvincing, leaving the whale’s habits and even its markings a mystery.

Now, scientists are starting to piece together the secret life of the little-seen species.

Recent expeditions off Madagascar revealed the whales devouring tiny shrimp-like creatures, as well as guzzling large mouthfuls of “dirty water”—a phenomenon scientists can’t yet explain.

“People see our photos and videos and say, ‘What are they feeding on? I don’t see anything there,’” says Salvatore Cerchio, a marine mammal biologist at the New England Aquarium and leader of the first team to document the whales’ lives.

“Well, I don’t know yet.” (Read about the Madagascar Omura’s Whale Project.)

The whales’ seemingly invisible food supply only adds to the mystique of the Omura’s whale, whose habitat, lifestyle, and social lives make them standouts in the whale world.

Big Moment

Even so, the Omura’s has avoided the limelight. It wasn’t until 2003 that Japanese researchers identified it as a species in its own right rather than a petite version of the similar-looking Bryde’s whale. Genetic data confirmed the whale as its own species in 2006.  …

Even after it was unmasked in the scientific literature, the Omura’s was still known only from dead specimens, some hauled onto whaling ships, others stranded on coastlines.

Then came the Omura’s big moment.

Scouting for dolphins near Madagascar a few years ago, Cerchio spotted some medium-size whales. After the DNA analysis came back, on December 24, 2014, Cerchio learned he’d stumbled onto Omura’s whales—“a very nice Christmas gift,” says Cerchio, a National Geographic explorer.  …

The team’s first round of data, published in October 2015 in the journal Royal Society Open Science, suggest that these Omura’s at least are homebodies. The sightings also suggest the Omura’s sticks to tropical and subtropical waters.

For a whale, that’s doubly unusual. Most whales migrate, often over long distances, and most spend at least some of the year in cooler waters closer to the poles, where food abounds. (See “Life in Antarctica Relies on Shrinking Supply of Krill.”)

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