A rare whale species has finally made its cinematic debut.
Science students captured two True’s beaked whales on camera during an expedition in Portugal’s Azores Islands. Their video is the first-ever recording of these elusive whales in the wild.
Such live sightings are extremely rare events. Marine experts know so little about these elephant-sized whales that the species is among the least-understood large mammals on the planet. For example, scientists don’t know enough about these whales to estimate the population size.
That’s why researchers in Scotland decided to publish one of the most comprehensive surveys yet on True’s beaked whales.
Their study, published Tuesday in the journal PeerJ, pulls together much of what we know so far about the torpedo-shaped whales. Their report includes the first-ever video, rare photos of a whale calf (!), as well as data collected from strandings and sightings and genetic analyses of individual whales.
True’s beaked whales are one of 22 species of beaked whales within the Ziphiidae family.
The researchers also documented a new color pattern for these whales and defined the species’ geographical boundaries in Atlantic Ocean. Once thought to be restricted to more temperate waters of the North Atlantic, the beaked whales’ range also includes waters in the southern Indian and South Atlantic Oceans as well as the Tasman Sea.
True’s beaked whales dive to depth for long periods of time, and they only pop up to the surface once in a while for short breathing intervals. They’ve been observed to dive all the way to 8,200 feet under the surface.
Marine biologists could use these insights to improve their long-term monitoring and conservation work for deepwater whales, according to the team at the Center for Research into Ecological and Environmental Modeling at the University of St. Andrew’s in Scotland.