Friday, February 24, 2012

Shepherd's Beaked Whale

Tasmacetus shepherdi
The Cetacean World is all abuzz this week! The Shepherd's Beaked Whale, a very rare and elusive species, has just been photographed alive for the first time ever. This is all thanks to the Australian Antarctic Division research team, who stumbled across some of the surfacing whales while hunting for their much larger, Blue Whale cousins.

This species lives in deep waters near New Zealand and Australia; their distance from shore is one of the reasons that they are so rarely seen. The Beaked Whales were first discovered in 1937, but have only been seen alive a scant handful of times. Most of what we know about the species comes from beached carcasses.

One of the most exciting things about the filming is that we now know that they are social animals. It was speculated that they were solitary, or lived in very tiny groups. This time the researchers discovered a pod of 10-12 individuals!

Understandably, not much else is known about the Shepherd's Beaked Whale, though the research time hope to publish more about their findings in the future.

IUCN Status : Data Deficient
Location : Australia and New Zealand
Size : Length up to 20ft (7m)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Mammalia -- Order : Cetacea
Family : Ziphiidae -- Genus : Tasmacetus -- Species : T. shepherdi

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