|New Zealand beaching proves rarest of whales exists|
A rare female spade-toothed beaked whale lays dead on Opape Beach, in New Zealand. The spade-toothed beaked whale is so rare, nobody has seen one alive. But scientists are sure it exists. Researchers from New Zealand and the United States describe the discovery in a paper published Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012, in the journal "Current Biology." They say it's the first time scientists are able to describe the world's "rarest and perhaps most enigmatic" marine mammal. AP Photo/ New Zealand Department of Conservation.
By: Nick Perry, Associated Press
WELLINGTON (AP).- The spade-toothed beaked whale is so rare that nobody has seen one alive, but scientists have proof the species still exists.
Two skeletons were identified as belonging to the species after a 17-foot whale and her calf beached themselves in New Zealand in 2010. Scientists hope the discovery will provide insights into the species and into ocean ecosystems.
It was almost a missed opportunity, however, since conservation workers misidentified the carcasses as a much more common type of whale and buried them.
In a paper published Tuesday in the journal "Current Biology," researchers from New Zealand and the United States say of their discovery: "For the first time we have a description of the world's rarest and perhaps most enigmatic marine mammal."
Previously only three skull fragments of the species had been found: in New Zealand in 1872 and in the 1950s and the last one 26 years ago on an island off Chile. The males have broad blade-like tusk teeth that give the species its name. Both males and females have beaks which make them resemble dolphins.
"This is pretty fantastic," said Ewan Fordyce, a geology professor at the University of Otago who specializes in the evolution of whales and who was not involved in the research. "There would be few, if any, mammalian species in the world that would be rarer. And we know much more about panda bears and other iconic, rare animals."
The beached whales, an adult and her 11-foot male calf, were discovered on Opape Beach on the North Island on New Year's Eve in 2010. Conservation workers thought they were Gray's beaked whales and took tissue samples before burying them about nine feet under the sand.
Those samples ended up at the University of Auckland where scientists did routine tests about six months later. Rochelle Constantine, a co-author of the paper, said she and her colleague Kirsten Thompson couldn't believe it when the results showed the pair to be the rarest of whales.
"Kirsten and I went quiet. We were pretty stunned," she said.
Further tests confirmed the discovery. Constantine said they then retested about 160 samples taken from other stranded Gray's whales but didn't find any more that had been misidentified.
This year, researchers returned to the beach to exhume the skeletons.
Anton van Helden, who manages the marine mammals collection for New Zealand's national museum Te Papa, said it wasn't a straightforward task to find the remains after so long and that the mother's skull, which was buried shallower than the rest of the remains, washed out to sea. But they were able to recover the rest of the skeletons.
"It's a hugely significant find," said van Helden, a co-author of the paper.
He said it's impossible to know why the whales came ashore although whales often beach themselves when they become ill. He said almost nothing is known about the species except they live in the South Pacific Ocean and eat primarily squid.
Fordyce said it may be possible to use the skeletons of the rare whales to reconstruct their muscles and tissues and to find out more about how they live and die and why they are so reclusive.
The scientists say the discovery could also provide broader insights into the ocean's complex ecosystems.
"This is good reminder," said Constantine, "of how large the oceans are, and of how little we know about them."
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.
November 8, 2012
Near-complete skeleton of a mammoth, between 200,000 and 500,000 years old, found
Bolivia's culture minister Pablo Groux returns tiny pre-Inca culture of coastal Peru mummy
Meeting of the giants of art in fifteen specialist sales at Koller Auctions in December
The Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona's Collection in six Critical Episodes (1957-2011)
A new exhibition featuring some of John Luke's finest works currently on display at the Ulster Museum
Sotheby's London to auction the archive of Russian film genius Andrei Tarkovsky
Important, scarce American paintings and drawings at auction at Swann Galleries
December Native American Art Sale to offer rare historic and contemporary artifacts
Merton D. Simpson Gallery to auction tribal art treasures online on November 17
Exhibition of work by acclaimed German photogram artist Floris Neusüss opens at Atlas Gallery
Famous Ned Kelly series of paintings by the celebrated Australian artist Sidney Nolan on view in Ireland
Tel Aviv Museum of Art announces new exhibition: "Roger Ballen - Documentary Fiction, 1982-2012"
Chemould Prescott Road presents a solo exhibition of new works by Pushpamala N.
Cédric Aurelle takes on the role of Director at Gallery Weekend Berlin and abc art berlin contemporary
New Zealand beaching proves rarest of whales exists
Tigerish world record for Japanese work of art at Bonhams sale in London
One-of-a-kind Neil Armstrong autograph brings $38,000+ Heritage Auctions Space event
Pueblo pottery and Plains beadwork highlight Heritage Auctions American Indian Art event
Poster collection seized by Nazis to be sold
Most Popular Last Seven Days
1.- 'World's oldest message in a bottle', tossed in sea 101 years ago, reaches granddaughter
2.- East-West/West-East: Qatar unveils desert sculpture by American artist Richard Serra
3.- Ming-era 'chicken cup' sells for $36.05 million breaking record for Chinese porcelain
4.- United States pastor Kevin Sutherland convicted over Damien Hirst fake paintings
5.- Major exhibition at Pinacothèque de Paris explores the myth of Cleopatra
6.- Fondation Vincent van Gogh Arles opens with inaugural exhibition "Van Gogh Live!"
7.- Landmark exhibition opens in New York exploring the ancient kingdoms of Southeast Asia
8.- Palm-sized scroll that mentions Jesus's wife is ancient: Harvard Theological Review
9.- Hitler's wife Eva Braun may have had Jewish ancestry: British television documentary
10.- Bonhams to sell Madame de Pompadour's favourite porcelain which surfaced in Devon after 350 years
Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .
|Royalville Communications, Inc|