New Species of Beaked Whale Found

Ramari's beaked whale, Mesoplodon eueu. 360onhistory.com
Ramari's beaked whale, Mesoplodon eueu. Credit: Carroll et al 2021
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Ramari's beaked whale, Mesoplodon eueu. 360onhistory.com

Ramari’s beaked whale, Mesoplodon eueu. Credit: Carroll et al 2021

This new species of beaked whale, named Mesoplodon eueu,(family Ziphiidae) has recently been discovered in the Southern Hemisphere. The name is linked to the indigenous peoples of the lands from which the species holotype and paratypes were recovered. The common name is Ramari’s beaked whale after Ramari Stewart, a female Mātauranga Māori whale expert who played a major role in the discovery. Ramari also means “rare event” in the Māori language. The species name, eueu, comes from the Khwedam word meaning ‘big fish’, as most of the strandings of these whales come from Khoisan territories in South Africa. To name the species the team was of the view that “Our consultation and involvement with Indigenous peoples offers a model for broadening the cultural scope of the scientific naming process.”

According to the study, “Beaked whales (ziphiids) are among the most visible inhabitants of the deep sea, due to their large size and worldwide distribution, and their taxonomic diversity and much about their natural history remain poorly understood.” 

The species likely occurs throughout the temperate waters of the Southern Hemisphere and genetic methods applied in this study have confirmed some in South Africa, while others have been confirmed in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand.

In 2011 a 5-metre-long (16 ft) pregnant female washed ashore south of Haast, on the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island. This specimen was named Nihongore by the main Maori tribe Te Rūnanga o Makaawhio. At first it was thought that it was a true beaked whale like others found in the North Atlantic and Indian Ocean but additional research confirmed that it was distinct from Northern Hemisphere whales. This study has resulted in the Southern Hemisphere beaked whale being considered a completely different species.

Skull and morphological distinctiveness of M. eueu shown by holotype (NMNZ MM003000). (a) Skull in dorsal (left), ventral (centre) and left lateral (right) view (b) periotic in dorsal (left) and ventral (right) view; (c) tympanic bulla in dorsal (left) and ventral (right) view; (d) mandible in dorsal (top) and lateral (bottom) view; (e) mandibular tusks in medial (left) and lateral (right) view. (f) PCA of cranial and mandibular measurements showing clear separation between M. eueu from the SH and M. mirus from the NA. Percentages next to principal components (PCs) denote the total variance explained. Filled stars are holotypes and hollow stars paratypes.

Skull and morphological distinctiveness of M. eueu shown by holotype (NMNZ MM003000). (a) Skull in dorsal (left), ventral (centre) and left lateral (right) view (b) periotic in dorsal (left) and ventral (right) view; (c) tympanic bulla in dorsal (left) and ventral (right) view; (d) mandible in dorsal (top) and lateral (bottom) view; (e) mandibular tusks in medial (left) and lateral (right) view. (f) PCA of cranial and mandibular measurements showing clear separation between M. eueu from the SH and M. mirus from the NA. Percentages next to principal components (PCs) denote the total variance explained. Filled stars are holotypes and hollow stars paratypes. Carroll et al 2021

The Study has been published Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

 

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I am a Chartered Environmentalist from the Royal Society for the Environment, UK and co-owner of DoLocal Digital Marketing Agency Ltd, with a Master of Environmental Management from Yale University, an MBA in Finance, and a Bachelor of Science in Physics and Mathematics. I am passionate about science, history and environment and love to create content on these topics.

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