The spade-toothed beaked whale may be the world's rarest whale. It was initially described in 1872 from a skull collected in the Chatham Islands, New Zealand. Other skull fragments were found on White Island, New Zealand in the 1950's and on Robinson Crusoe Island, Chile in 1986. No live animals had been observed. In December 2010, two whales presumed to be a mother and calf stranded and then died on Opape Beach, near to the White Island locality. Officials originally identified them as Gray's beaked whales, the most common beaked whale to strand in this area. Scientists took samples and photographs, then buried the bodies on the beach. To everyone's surprise, DNA testing from those samples indicated that these were instead the elusive spade-toothed beaked whale. Scientists have used the photographs to describe this whale's appearance for the first time. They have also recovered most of the skeletal remains for further analysis. (Thompson et al. 2012).
- Thompson, Kirsten, C. Scott Baker, Anton van Helden, Selina Patel, Craig Millar, and Rochelle Constantine. 2012. “The World’s Rarest Whale.” Current Biology 22 (21) (November): R905–R906. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2012.08.055. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2012.08.055.
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