Rare whale caught on video for the first time

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Scientists studying whales and dolphins off the coast of Australia have captured what is believed to be the world's first footage of the rare Shepherd's beaked whale (Tasmacetus shepherdi).

A research team from the Australian Antarctic Division were studying blue whales in the Bass Strait between Australia and Tasmania when they spotted a strange looking whale swimming with Pilot whales and Bottle-nosed dolphins and eventually counted as many as 12 of the rare cetaceans.  

Despite its relatively large adult size of 7m/21' and over 3 tons in weight, these reclusive creatures were not described by science until 1937 and information on the species has largely been gained from just a handful of fleeting encounters at sea, or from examinations of dead, stranded specimens.

They are believed to be distributed throughout the southern oceans, with strandings reported from south Australia, New Zealand, Chile and Argentina but are rarely seen because of the often extreme weather conditions in these seas.

They have a distinctive beak similar to dolphins and a large, pale grey coloured 'melon', a rounded fatty organ found in the forehead of all toothed whales including dolphins and porpoises believed to be used in echolocation.

They are the only beaked whales to have a full set of functional teeth and it's been speculated that this reflects a diet made up primarily of fish, rather than squid and examinations of the stomach contents of stranded specimens appears to confirm this.

Adult males have a pair of tusk like teeth on their lower jaw.

It is thought that they are probably a deep diving species capable of staying submerged for over an hour at a time like other beaked whales from the family Ziphidae. Very little else is known about the species and there is no information on population numbers, leading to them being listed as 'data deficient' on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

You can watch the footage on the news report below:

 

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