Big news from blue whale researchers in February 2012. The Agence France-Presse (AFP) news agency reported yesterday (February 23) that the researchers happened upon a group of Shepherd’s beaked whales aka Tasman beaked whales, which have been spotted only a handful of times in the past. The researchers glimpsed a dozen or so whales traveling in a pod off the coast of southern Australia. Michael Double of the Australian Antarctic Division team told the AFP:
These animals are practically entirely known from stranded dead whales, and there haven’t been many of them.
It surprised researchers to find the Shepherd’s beaked whales traveling in a pod, because they had believed that these whales were solitary creatures.
Shepherd’s beaked whales are so rarely seen that researchers do not have a population estimate.
Double told AFP:
To find them in a pod is very exciting and will change the guide books. Our two whale experts will now carefully study the footage to work out the whale sizes and so on and prepare a scientific paper.
The AFP notes that the Shepherd’s beaked whale was first discovered in 1937 but it has only been seen a handful of times since then.
Bottom line: Shepherd’s beaked whales aka Tasman beaked whales whales are rarely seen because they come up for air only very briefly. But researchers near Australia saw and filmed a dozen or so of the creatures near Australia. This 2012 sighting of the whales was exicting to researchers, who have seen the whales so rarely that they have no estimate of the global population.
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.