18 June 2013

Examination of a rare whale species

Photo: New Zealand Government

The spade-toothed beaked whale (Mesoplodon traversii) is one of the world's rarest whale species. The only known specimen is from an incomplete skull [2]. However, recent reports indicate that it is present in New Zealand [1] and in Robinson Crusoe Island, Juan Fernandez Archipelago, Chile [2]. Even more recently, two individuals, a mother and calf, were found live-stranded on Opape Beach, New Zealand in 31 December 2010, though these eventually died. DNA analysis on the remains confirmed that these individuals were of the spade-toothed beaked whale. This is the first time that a complete morphological account of this animal was done. Thus, stressing the importance of reference collections and genetic data in species cataloguing, especially in the case of rare species such as this whale [3].

To know more about beaked whales, visit SeaLifeBase.
[1] Wilson, D.E.; Reeder, D.M. (eds.) (2005) Mammal Species of the World. A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed). Johns Hopkins University Press, 2, 142 pp.
[2] Rice, D.W. (1998) Marine Mammals of the World Systematics and Distribution. Special Publication number 4: The Society for Marine Mammalogy. 231p.
[3] Thompson,K.; Baker, C.S.; van Helden, A.; Patel, S.; Millar, C.; Constantine, R. (2012) The world's rarest whale. Current Biology 22(Issue21):R905-R906.

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