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New beaked whale species discovered in Japan

New species of beaked whale - Berardius minimus

A new species of beaked whale that lives in the North Pacific has been identified in Japan, according to scientists who have published their discovery in the scientific journal Nature.

The whale is thought to possibly be a new member of the Berardius family, which would mean there are now three whales in this group, the others being Baird's beaked whale and Arnoux's beaked whale. The new whale has been given the scientific name Berardius minimus.

Beaked whales live in deep waters, often offshore which makes sightings and research difficult. Several new species have been recognised in recent years, some of which have only been identified by analysis of bones from stranded whales.

Baird's beaked whales are hunted in Japan and whalers had often referred to two types of whales, one of which was a  darker, smaller version. The whale was known locally as “kuro-tsuchi”, meaning Black Baird's beaked whale.

Now analysis of bones and DNA have confirmed it is a separate species. The new whale, which can grow up to seven metres long, is smaller than its relative with a shorter beak and dark body colour.

For the full report:

Description of a new species of beaked whale (Berardius) found in the North Pacific
Authors: Tadasu K. Yamada, Shino Kitamura, Syuiti Abe, Yuko Tajima, Ayaka Matsuda, James G. Mead & Takashi F. Matsuishi
Nature - Scientific Reports

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