New whale species found in museum

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Japanese taxonomists have discovered a new species of Baleen whale in a museum, 25 years after it was captured, says a report in the journal Nature.

The find came after a team of researchers, led by Shiro Wada of the Japanese National Research Institute of Fisheries Science in Yokohama, investigated the osteology (bones) and DNA of museum specimens.

The new species, which has been described as Balaenoptera omurai, has differences in it's mitochondrial DNA sequence, and in the structure of it's skull and comb-like baleen plates.

The new genetic data also helped the taxonomists unravel the complexities of part of the Balaenoptera phylogeny (their evolutionary family tree) and has allowed the workers to split B. edeni into two distinct species - B. edeni and B. brydei - according to differences in DNA sequences.

Only eight species of Baleen whale have been described, so the discovery of two new ones is a significant breakthrough in marine biology.