A possible new beaked whale species observed off Mexico

Yesterday it was announnced that some possibly hitherto unknown beaked whales were observed and photographed in the waters north of the San Benito Islands in the Pacific Ocean.

Illustration of the possible new beaked whale from the Pacific Oceans near the San Benito Archipelago

Scientists of the Sea Sheperd vessel Martin Sheen were able to observe the whales both on the surface and underwater near the archipelago of the San Benito Islands. Those three remote islands are located off Baja California, Mexico.

I tried to illustrate the species as good as possible based on the few published photos. Sadly the head was not very well visible. The presence of many large scars indicate however that the males of this species possess battle teeth. As they were howeve fully invisible this the photos and because they are among the most important diagnostic characters of beaked whales, I did not depict them here, to avoid too much speculation about their shape and position.

The beaked whales also differed acoustically from the known echolocation sounds of other beaked whales and it is expected to represent a new and yet undescribed species. Beaked whales are still among the least known cetaceans, and the biology of many species is still mainly unknown. Even new species has been described in recent years, and there is valid reason to assume that other species awaits discovery.

Of course it is problematic to identify a new animal species from observations alone, without any physical remains to work with. But this is a start for more research, and perhaps future expeditions will enable us to get more photos and echolocation data, observation of behavior and hopeyfully – DNA samples which would settle wether or not this is a fully new species or perhaps just a known species or possibly yet unknown subspecies.

Original story and photos of the mysterious whales

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