Science

New beaked whale species discovered off the coast of Japan

New beaked whale species disco...
The new whale species, Berardius minimus, in the wild
The new whale species, Berardius minimus, in the wild
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The new whale species, Berardius minimus, in the wild
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The new whale species, Berardius minimus, in the wild
The skull of Berardius minimus
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The skull of Berardius minimus
Illustrations comparing the newly described species Berardius minimus (top) with the related known species, Berardius bairdii (bottom).
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Illustrations comparing the newly described species Berardius minimus (top) with the related known species, Berardius bairdii (bottom).

New species turn up on Earth with surprising regularity, but most of the time they’re small, like ants and tarantulas. You’d be forgiven for thinking that we must have found all the big animals like whales by now, but Japanese scientists have managed to find a previously-unknown whale species.

Named Berardius minimus, the new species measures between 6.2 and 6.9 m (20.3 and 22.6 ft) long, is mostly black, and has a small beak like a dolphin. It was identified from six specimens that were found stranded along the northernmost coast of Japan’s northern island, Hokkaido. Interestingly, local whalers had long told tales of the strange animals, but they were presumed to belong to a known species, Berardius bairdii.

The specimens were studied by researchers from Hokkaido University, the National Museum of Nature and Science, Iwate University and the United States National Museum of Natural History. While they shared some characteristics with the known animals, there were enough differences to warrant classifying them as a brand new species.

Illustrations comparing the newly described species Berardius minimus (top) with the related known species, Berardius bairdii (bottom).
Illustrations comparing the newly described species Berardius minimus (top) with the related known species, Berardius bairdii (bottom).

B. minimus is found to grow to be smaller than B. bairdii, with the latter reaching 10 m (32.8 ft) long. B. minimus also has a different-shaped body, a shorter beak, and a darker color. By examining the skull, bones and DNA of the new animals, the team also found a host of other differences.

“There are still many things we don’t know about B. minimus,” says Takashi Matsuishi, lead researcher on the study. “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.”

And this may not be the last new species to be found in the vicinity. Locals also tell of another type of whale in the area that they call Karasu, or “crow.” They could of course be referring to the newly-described B. minimus, but the researchers say that there’s also a chance that there’s another new species roaming the northern Japanese waters.

The new species was described in a paper published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Source: Hokkaido University

6 comments
los_kiosk
Hopefully there will be time to study them before the Japanese decide to hunt and eat them all !
BartyLobethal
Hey that's great, now that they've discovered them they can kill and eat them for..."research".
bundoranjoe
Probably not the best place to be discovered ,so close to the whale munching Japanese,I can hear the millionairs shouting me first to eat some of this animal50000 yen for first steak.
Aireus Westphal
I live and sail full time in Mexico. I've seen these whales on the Baja side of the Sea by Loreto Baja Sur MX. I seen them two years. It's a Pod of 6-8. I didn't know what they were until recently I thought they were Sperm whales. They had a weird bulb on the heads. It appeared to be 30-40ft long. Very interesting looking.
WarrenHarding
Oh oh, the Japanese have found another menu item...
PAV
This is the result of the Mandela effect.