True’s beaked whales
The True’s beaked whales (Mesoplodon mirus) is an elusive species which until now had never been filmed in the wild. The True’s beaked whale is part of the Ziphiidae family which contains 22 species of beaked whales. Mesoplodon beaked whales are some of the most poorly known of all large mammals.
Little is known about the distribution of the True’s beaked whale species which is thought to reside in the warm waters of the northern hemisphere. However, stranding records have puzzled scientists with whales washing up in Brazil, South Africa, and even Australia. Stranding records indicate the True’s beaked whale is either a highly migratory species or two unique populations with some degree of genetic isolation.
The most recent sighting was near the Azores archipelago and the Canary islands which are considered to be a unique location to study the behavior of these animals, and the northern most limit of their distribution.
Beaked whales dive for long periods of time with only short periods at the surface. Distinguishing between the various species of beaked whales is often difficult as they have similar body shapes, colors, and patterns. Because of their similar features, it is rather difficult to identify beaked whales from sightings at the surface.
Scientists look for distinct color patches on the head or dorsal fin, teeth arrangement, beak size, and melon size to tell the species apart. (The melon is located on the top of the whales head and is used for communication and echolocation). True’s beaked whales share a general grey colouration including a dark eye patch and pale ventral area.
Live sightings and positive identification of this species is a rare event. This is what makes the first video of beaked whales underwater an important observation for researchers. New records of poorly known species increase knowledge of how a species looks their behavior and their distribution.