New Species Of Beaked Whale Discovered Off Coast Of Japan

While whales and Japan are currently amid a very dark period of history as Japan has officially begun whaling again off their coastline, a black Baird’s beaked whale found off the coastline of Japan has been discovered to be a brand new species.

Nicknamed the Kurotsuchikujira by Japanese whales, the animal is smaller than a the traditional beaked whale and has alluded researchers until recently when new analysis from a previously deceased specimen confirmed the existence of a different species.

Beaked whales prefer deeper depths of up to 9850 feet, making them an elusive animal to study. Prior to the discovery, there was only one known Baird’s beaked whale in the North Pacific as that title was held by the slate-gray Baird’s beaked whale. With this news, the new addition to the species is the black Baird’s beaked whale ( Berardius minimus).

Difference between the newly discovered black beaked whale and the previously known gray-slate beaked whale. Yoshimi Watanabe, National Museum of Nature and Science/Nature

The research of the discovery was published in Scientific Reports where the paper described how the researchers were able to identify the new species. Researchers collected four individual deceased whales, three from Hokkaido, Japan and the fourth that was initially collected in 1943 in Alaska and was held in at the US National Museum of Natural History.

All four whales differed in morphology, osteology, and molecular phylogeny characteristics. “Just by looking at them, we could tell that they have a remarkably smaller body size, more spindle-shaped body, a shorter beak, and darker color compared to known Berardius species,” said study author Tadasu K. Yamada in a statement.

The biggest difference with the new species is the size of the animal as the black beaked whale measured on average of over 20 feet compared to the grey beaked whale which measures in on average at 33 feet. As well, the new species has a distinctively shorter beak and other notable differences in the skull and skeletal makeup.

“There are still many things we don’t know about B. minimus,” said researcher Takashi F. Matsuishi. “We still don’t know what adult females look like, and there are still many questions related to species distribution, for example. We hope to continue expanding what we know about B. minimus.”

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