Believe it or not, there are still a lot of animal species out there that have not been studied by researchers. Some are elusive, some dwell in unfriendly habitats and some are so rare than when they are spotted they are attributed to other, more common species. This is exactly what happened to the Omura. The Madagascar whale was observed for the first time by researchers last year.
The Aquarium in New England proudly announced last Thursday that Salvatore Cerchio and his team of researchers managed to identify 80 individual members of the Omura whale species.
Since the Madagascar whale was first discovered, the scientists only managed to identify 44 individual members of the species.
Everything related to the Omura is new because the entire species was discovered in 2003 when another group of researchers were studying some Bryde pygmy whales. But they soon realized that their object of research was not of the pygmy Bryde species, but entirely different whales.
After the team of researchers noticed that their attention was focused on Omura whales they got really excited. The mammals are very elusive, and sightings are extremely rare. Furthermore, the scientists were not expecting to find them in Madagascar.
This means that the sightings from last fall are the longest contact humans have ever made with members of the Omura species.
The differences between the Bryde’s pygmy whales and the Omura are small. For once, the latter has a more asymmetrical pigmentation on their head. Also, their head ridges are centered. It’s quite understandable why the scientists confused the two species.
The Omura whales were rarely spotted throughout history and researchers believed that they spend most of their lives in tropical waters. Which is a very odd assumption seeing as there is little food available for whales in the tropics.
But last fall, the Madagascar whale was observed for the first time by the researchers. And during their study, the team found that Omura specimens prefer to feed on euphausiids, which are a type of tiny shrimps.
Cerchio was extremely pleased to have had the chance of studying the elusive whales up close. He said that he and his team benefited from an excellent opportunity of learning not just about the Omura, but the way in which they fit into an ecosystem as well.
Cerchio’s team is momentarily seeking funding in order to be able to return to the last sighting location and study the Omura further.
Image source: www.wikimedia.org