Video | Business Headlines | Internet | Science | Scientific Ethics | Technology | Search

 


First sighting of world’s rarest whale

Media release

Faculty of Science
The University of Auckland


6 November 2012


First sighting of world’s rarest whale


The world’s rarest whale, the spade-toothed beaked whale, has been sighted for the first time according to scientists from The University of Auckland.

“This is the first time a spade-toothed beaked whale has been seen as a complete specimen, and we were lucky enough to find two of them,” says lead scientist Dr Rochelle Constantine.

“It’s incredible to think that, until recently, such a large animal was concealed in the South Pacific Ocean and shows how little we know about ocean biodiversity.”

In a study published today in Current Biology, the scientists used DNA evidence to prove that a mother and her male calf which stranded in New Zealand in late 2010 were the first animals of their kind ever seen.

Since the two animals are the only intact members of their species sighted, the spade-toothed beaked whale is the world’s rarest whale.

Until now the only evidence for the species’ existence came from three skull and jaw fragments found around New Zealand and Robinson Crusoe Island, Chile.

The spade-toothed beaked whale was discovered on Pitt Island in the Chatham Islands in 1872, but it wasn’t until 2002 that scientists from The University of Auckland analysed DNA from the three skull fragments, recovered from museum archives, and realised that their genetic profiles were the same and did not correspond to any other known species.

stranded spade-toothed beaked whale discovered
Figure from the supplemental information to the paper in Current Biology - The world’s rarest whale. Photo credit: Department of Conservation

There was sufficient DNA evidence to confirm that these three scattered specimens were the bones of the spade-toothed beaked whale. Until the stranding, however, it was unclear whether the species still existed.

On December 31, 2010, a female whale (5.3m long) and male calf (3.5m) stranded and later died on Opape Beach in the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand. After death they were measured, photographed and tissue samples were taken by the Department of Conservation.

The animals were initially misidentified as Gray’s beaked whales, the most common beaked whale to strand in New Zealand. However subsequent genetic analysis at The University of Auckland revealed that they were spade-toothed beaked whales.

Following genetic identification the skeletal remains were exhumed, with the permission of Whakatohea Iwi Maori Trust and the Ngai Tama Haua hapu, and taken to the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.

“This is a real New Zealand story – it’s all linked here, from the discovery of two of the bone fragments to the identification of the species and now the first sighting of the whales,” says Dr Constantine.

“In New Zealand we have a very well established network whereby members of the public report stranded marine mammals to the Department of Conservation, which collects information and sends tissue samples to our laboratory at The University of Auckland.”

“This discovery is a real reward for that work. It demonstrates the value of archival collections and the power of DNA as a forensic tool.”

ends

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines

 

ICT Innovation: Six NZ Finalists In World Summit Awards

The awards are a global showcase of 40 projects, across eight categories, with a special emphasis on those which show the benefits of information and communication technology for the development of communities. New Zealand has finalists in six of the eight categories. More>>

ALSO:

Final Frontier: Rocket Lab And NASA Sign Commercial Space Launch Agreement

Rocket Lab has signed a Commercial Space Launch Act Agreement with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The agreement enables Rocket Lab to use NASA resources - including personnel, facilities and equipment - for launch and reentry efforts. More>>

ALSO:

Scoop Business: Wheeler Downplays Scope For ‘Large’ Rates Fall

Reserve Bank governor Graeme Wheeler says some market commentators are predicting further declines in interest rates that would only make sense for an economy in recession, although some easing is likely to be needed to maintain New Zealand’s economic growth. More>>

ALSO:

Ruataniwha Dam: Consent Conditions Could Mean Reduced Intensity

Legal advice sought by the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council on the Ruataniwha Dam consent conditions has confirmed that farmers who sign up to take water from the dam could be required to reduce the intensity of their farming operation to meet the catchment’s strict nitrogen limit. More>>

Health And Safety: Bill Now Sees Rules Relaxed For Small Businesses

Health and safety law reform sparked by the Pike River coalmine disaster has been reported back from the industrial relations select committee with weakened requirements on small businesses to appoint health and safety representatives and committees. More>>

ALSO:

Bearing Fruit: Annual Fruit Exports Hit $2 Billion For First Time

The value of fruit exported rose 20 percent (up $330 million) for the June 2015 year when compared with the year ended June 2014. Both higher prices and a greater quantity of exports (up 9.0 percent) contributed to the overall rise. More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sci-Tech
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news