The spade-toothed beaked whale is so rare that it’s actually never been seen. Scientists have found three fossils over the last 140-years but they have never seen a complete specimen. That is, until recently when two of the rare whales got stranded on a beach in New Zealand.
According to Live Science, a mother and calf got stranded on Opape Beach in December 2010. Scientists believed that the whales, which died shortly after being stranded, were common Gray’s beaked whales. But after an analysis of the animal’s DNA, which appears in the recent issue of Current Biology, researchers learned that they had actually seen the world’s rarest whale.
Rochelle Constantine, a marine biologist at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, said:
“When these specimens came to our lab, we extracted the DNA as we usually do for samples like these, and we were very surprised to find that they were spade-toothed beaked whales … We ran the samples a few times to make sure before we told everyone.”
Constantine said that the adult whale was more than 17 feet long and she was surprised that such a big animal had never been seen. The researcher believes that the spade-toothed beaked whale may live and die in the deep ocean without ever coming close to shore.
“Up until now, all we have known about the spade-toothed beaked whale was from three partial skulls collected from New Zealand and Chile over a 140-year period. It is remarkable that we know almost nothing about such a large mammal.”
Here’s a photo of the world’s rarest whale.
“This is the first time this species has ever been seen as a complete specimen, and we were lucky enough to find two of them. It may be that they are simply an offshore species that lives and dies in the deep ocean waters and only rarely wash[es] ashore. New Zealand is surrounded by massive oceans. There is a lot of marine life that remains unknown to us.”