Scientists, Conservationists Capture Footage Of Possible New Whale Species In Mexico

By Kendal Blust
Published: Wednesday, December 9, 2020 - 4:22pm

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Possible new beaked whale species
Sea Shepherd/CONANP
Scientists encountered what they believe to be a new beaked whale species in the waters north of Mexico's San Benito Islands on Nov. 17, 2020.

Researchers believe they have discovered a previously unknown species of whale off the western coast of Mexico.

A team of scientists and conservationists aboard a Sea Shepherd Conservation Society ship found three beaked whales in the waters north of Mexico’s San Benito Islands last month while attempting to identify the source of an unknown acoustic signal recorded in the area in 2018.

Instead, they captured photographs and videos of the three whales, and deployed a specialized underwater microphone to record their acoustic signals. The sounds they recorded, however, do not match either the earlier recording from the area or any others known to science, according to a news release.

"We saw something new. Something that was not expected in this area, something that doesn't match, either visually or acoustically, anything that is known to exist," said researcher Jay Barlow.

Possible new beaked whale species
Sea Shepherd/CONANP
An image of a beaked whale scientists and conservationists believe to be a new species was captured in near Mexico's San Benito Islands on Nov. 17, 2020.

He and other members of the team believe the whales they encountered are an entirely new species.

"It’s easy to jump to the conclusion that we found a new species, and I’m just putting the brakes on that notion. But I really believe it. I believe we’ve found something that’s truly unique and never found before," Barlow said. "It just sends chills up and down my spine when I think that we might have accomplished what most people would say was truly impossible - finding a large mammal that exists on this earth that is totally unknown to science."

Genetic samples taken during the sighting are undergoing analysis to definitively determine the existence of a new beaked whale species.

The signal recorded near the San Benito Islands in 2018, known as BW43, was previously detected off the coast of California, and scientists believe it might be the sound of a Perrin's beaked whale, one of 23 known beaked whale species, according to the press release. However, researchers say the animals they encountered during the Nov. 17 expedition is not a Perrin's beaked whale or any other known species.

Possible new beaked whale species
Sea Shepherd/CONANP
Scientists captured photographs of what they believe to be a new beaked whale species in the waters north of Mexico's San Benito Islands on Nov. 17, 2020.

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