Unidentified beaked whales raise 'highly confident' hopes of an entirely new species.
While searching for a rare whale species off the coast of Mexico, a group of scientists says they have instead spotted what they believe is an entirely new species of the marine mammal.
Three beaked whales were spotted breaching the water surface near the remote San Benito Islands by researchers from the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.
The sightings came after the team ventured to find out what kind of whales were making an unidentified acoustic signal previously recorded in the area. Known as BW43, the signal had previously been picked up off the coast of California and was again detected in the waters north of the San Benito Islands in 2018. Since the scientists couldn’t tie the signal to any known species, they set out on an expedition to see what they could find.
Last month, the team spotted the three beaked whales break through the surface of waters around 100 miles north of the San Benito Islands. The team also managed to take photos and video recordings of the mammals, and use underwater microphones to record their unique acoustic signals.
“We saw something new," says Dr. Jay Barlow from the Whale Acoustic Reconnaissance Program. "Something that was not expected in this area, something that doesn’t match, either visually or acoustically, anything that is known to exist. 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."
After studying the collected data, the scientists said they were “highly confident” that they’ve indeed discovered an entirely new species. As reported by New Atlas, initial analysis of the acoustic signal suggests that it doesn’t match any previously known species but the genetic analysis is currently underway, which the team expects to conclusively confirm the new species.