A new, strange species of deep-diving beaked whales that lives at depths over 6,000 feet has been officially identified by scientists as its own unique species, according to a new study.
The Ramari beaked whale, so named after Māori whale expert Ramari Stewart, began its journey to becoming its own recognized species after a pregnant beaked whale was found dead on a beach in New Zealand.
Stewart and fellow scientist Emma Carroll noticed that the specimen that had washed ashore was different genetically and had a different skull shape from its cousins in the Northern Hemisphere, according to the Whale and Dolphin Conservation organization.
Beaked whales are rarely seen alive due to their behavior. According to the study, their “diversity and ecology remain obscure, with seven of the 23 species in the IUCN Red List classified as Data Deficient,” according to the study published by the Proceedings of the Royal Society journal.
“The Earth’s deep ocean remains less understood than the surface of Mars,” the study says. “However, much biodiversity is waiting to be discovered in the deep sea, and there is great potential for this region to contribute to and challenge major ecological hypotheses.”
The word “Ramari” appropriately means a rare event in the Māori language.
The whales can be as long as 17 feet and weigh as much as a ton. They feed at depths nearly 3,000 feet, and only seldom need come to the surface to breathe. They are recognized by their tusks from their lower jaw and their sloped heads.
The study’s scientists said they believe there may be as many as 1.5 million undiscovered species below the ocean’s surface.
“This species is remarkable both in its unique attributes and its name.” said Regina Asmutis-Silvia, WDC-NA Executive Director. “It is not only rare to discover new whale species but even more rare to name them after women and honor the indigenous peoples whose coastlines are visited by these amazing creatures”