The scientific description 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. 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. B. omurai resembles the Fin Whale (Balaenoptera physalus) in external appearance, but is smaller.
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 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.
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.
- ^ "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.
- ^ a b Wada, S., Oishi, M., and Yamada, T.K. 2003. A newly discovered species of living baleen whale. 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. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2006.03.032. PMID 16843687.
- ^ Whale species is new to science
- ^ New York Times article containing comments of some doubting scientists
- ^ Balaenoptera edeni Wilson, Don E.; Reeder, DeeAnn M., eds (2005). Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2 vols. (2142 pp.). ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494. http://www.bucknell.edu/msw3.
- ^ "Balaenoptera omura Wada, Oishi, and Yamada, 2003". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. http://www.itis.gov/servlet/SingleRpt/SingleRpt?search_topic=TSN&search_value=770889.