Balaenoptera omurai is a species of whale about which almost nothing is known. The announcement of the discovery of this whale was made in the November 20, 2003, edition of Nature (426, 278-281) by three Japanese scientists Shiro Wada, Masayuki Oishi and Tadasu K. Yamada.
Whether the claim of a new species will be accepted by the wider cetological community remains to be seen. Indeed other scientists were cautious in their immediate response to the announcement of the discovery. Quoted in the New York Times, Dr. Howard C. Rosenbaum, a conservation biologist with the Wildlife Conservation Society, said the Japanese researchers had done "an admirable job to at least open the question as whether this is a distinct species," but added that more DNA analysis needed to be done. If the claim does gain wide acceptance , The specific epithet commemorates Japanese cetologist Hideo Omura, thus a common name for the accepted species would be Omura's Whale.
The three scientists determined the existence of the species by analysing the morphology and mitochondrial DNA of nine individuals - eight caught by a Japanese research vessel in the late 1970s in the Indo-Pacific and a further specimen collected in 1998 from a small island in the Sea of Japan.
In the third edition of Mammal Species of the World, the "species" is relegated to being a synonym of Balaenoptera edeni. However the authors note that this subject to a revision of the genus. The database ITIS lists this as a valid taxon, noting a caveat on the disputed systematics of this species, Balaenoptera edeni and Balaenoptera brydei.
In their paper, the scientists describe the species as resembling the Fin Whale (Balaenoptera physalus) in external appearance, albeit smaller.
- ^ "Cetacean update of the 2008 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species" (PDF). http://cmsdata.iucn.org/downloads/cetacean_table_for_website.pdf. Retrieved 2008-10-11.
- ^ Balaenoptera edeni Wilson, D. E., and Reeder, D. M. (eds), ed (2005). Mammal Species of the World (3rd edition ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0-801-88221-4. http://www.bucknell.edu/msw3.
- ^ Balaenoptera omura Wada, Oishi, and Yamada, 2003 (TSN 770889). Integrated Taxonomic Information System.
- Wada, S., Oishi, M., and Yamada, T.K. 2003. A newly discovered species of living baleen whales. Nature 426: 278–281.
- Sasaki, T., Nikaido, M., Wada, S., Yamada, T.K., Cao, Y., Hasegawa, M., and Okada, N. 2006. Balaenoptera omurai is a newly discovered baleen whale that represents an ancient evolutionary lineage. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 41(1): 40–52.