Elusive whales living near Madagascar swim to and fro in beautiful footage newly released by a biologist with the New England Aquarium.
Dr. Salvatore Cerchio, who specializes in marine mammals, traveled to Madagascar more than 10 years ago to study dolphins, according to Fox News. But in 2013, Cerchio and his team discovered a group of Omura’s whales, a species that was previously known only to live in the Indian Ocean near Australia and the western Pacific.
“Once we realized they were Omura’s whales, it was mind-boggling because, first of all, no one had studied these animals,” he told Fox. “No had seen them or documented them in the wild and they were not supposed to be in Madagascar.”
Last year, the biologist released what the New England Aquarium said was the first video of the rare species ever taken in the wild. This week, Cerchio and his team released a new video showing a mother with her calf.
It’s only in 2003 that Omura’s whales were recognized as a distinct species, when Japanese researchers analyzed the DNA of nine whales that had been caught decades earlier. Before that analysis, scientists believed Omura’s whales were a pygmy variety of Bryde’s whales, another species that lives in tropical waters.
Omura’s whales are baleen whales — instead of teeth, they have a stiff, sieve-like filtering system inside their mouths called baleen. Baleen whales open their mouths all the way to take water into their mouths, then push the water out through the baleen, leaving behind small prey like krill for the whales to eat.
So few Omura’s whales have been observed in the wild that scientists don’t know much about their behavior, according to the Whale and Dolphin Conservation group. But the whales that have been spotted are typically alone or in pairs.
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