Rare Whale Seen In New Zealand: Spade-Toothed Beaked Whale Spotted For First Time In 140 Years

By Amir Khan on November 6, 2012 1:49 PM EST

Spade-Toothed Beaked Whale
The rare whale seen in New Zealand is the first time the spade-toothed beaked whale has been seen in 140 years, and experts are excited at the opportunity to study this mysterious creature (Photo: Creative Commons)

The rare whale seen in New Zealand is the first time the spade-toothed beaked whale has been seen in 140 years, and experts are excited at the opportunity to study this mysterious creature. The rare whale seen in New Zealand washed up two years ago, and the results are published in the latest issue of the journal Current Biology.

The spade-toothed beaked whale washed up on a New Zealand beach alongside a male calf. While both specimens died, researchers were able to take tissue samples and measurements of the whale for the first time ever."

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'This is the first time this species - a whale over five metres in length - has ever been seen as a complete specimen, and we were lucky enough to find two of them," Rochelle Constantine, study author and researcher at the University of Auckland, told the Daily Mail. "Up until now, all we have known about the spade-toothed beaked whale was from three partial skulls collected from New Zealand and Chile over a 140-year period."

The whales were initially misidentified as the much more common Gray's beaked whales, but DNA analysis revealed them to be the spade-toothed beaked whale, which had previously only been identified through a skull that washed up on the beach.

"When these specimens came to our lab, we extracted the DNA as we usually do for samples like these, and we were very surprised to find that they were spade-toothed beaked whales," Constantine said. "We ran the samples a few times to make sure before we told everyone."

The rare whale seen on the beach is thought to live in the very deep ocean and feed on squid. It lives in the South Pacific Ocean, which has some of the deepest trenches on Earth.

"It may be that they are simply an offshore species that lives and dies in the deep ocean waters and only rarely wash ashore," Constantine said. "New Zealand is surrounded by massive oceans. There is a lot of marine life that remains unknown to us."

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