An international team of whale biologists have just released incredible footage of an Omura’s whale being caught on camera for the first time.
One of the least known species of whales in the world, Omura’s whales (Balaenoptera omurai) are the small cousin in a group that includes the giant blue whales and the acrobatic humpbacks.
Speaking about the project Dr. Salvatore Cerchio, of the New England Aquarium and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), said:
‘Over the years, there have been a small handful of possible sightings of Omura’s whales, but nothing that was confirmed. They appear to occur in remote regions and are difficult to find at sea, because they are small and do not put up a prominent blow.’
‘At first, we thought they were Bryde’s whales, an understandable mistake because of the similar size and habitat, but then with good photographs and underwater video, we noticed they more closely resembled the description of Omura’s whales.’
The whales were only first identified as a distinct species of whale in 2003 from the DNA of dead specimens from old Japanese whaling expeditions and strandings in the tropical western Pacific and Indian Oceans. They had long been misidentified as a dwarf version of Bryde’s whales.
Cerchio hopes to produce the first estimate of abundance for any population of Omura’s whales with this study, which has been operating off the northwest coast of Madagascar since 2007.
So far, the team has catalogued approximately 25 individuals through photographic identifications.