A rare whale was found dead on a Western Australia beach. Officials have confirmed the juvenile female is an Omura’s Whale, which was feared to be extinct. It is believed that the whale became stranded on the beach amid Tropical Cyclone Olwyn.
Previously thought to be a smaller Bryde’s Whale, the Omura’s Whale was identified as a separate species in 2003.
Department of Parks and Wildlife officer Doug Coughran said the rare whale “has similarities to others, but nothing that was obvious other than that hooked dorsal fin.”
As discussed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural resources, researchers have found, and positively identified, fewer than 12 Omura’s Whales.
A majority of the rare whales were found in the Solomon Sea. However, specimens were also collected near Singapore and in Myanmar.
Rare Omura’s whale carcass find in Western Australia excites scientists http://t.co/6qvd4ZijUn
— The Guardian (@guardian) April 14, 2015
As reported by ABC News, little is known about the Omura’s Whale. However, researchers previously believed the population was limited to the Cocos Islands, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, and the Solomon Islands. Officer Doug Coughran explains.
“It was not thought to be that far south in the eastern side of the Indian Ocean – it was only known from the waters north of the equator and down as far as the Indonesian waters and across to New Guinea.”
The Omura’s Whale’s death was unfortunate. Thankfully, the discovery provided some invaluable information.
— Lindsay Hirt (@OceanDevotion84) March 29, 2015
WA Environment Minister Albert Jacob said “the knowledge [gained] from this whale will help to improve field identification guides to better understand the whale’s regional distribution.”
It is unclear how the Omura’s Whale population was depleted. However, similar species have fallen victim to commercial whale fishing.
The current population of Omura’s Whales is unknown, but they are thought to be endangered. Although laws restricting commercial whale fishing have benefited all baleen whales, it is unclear whether the Omura’s Whale population will recover.
Coughran said the rare whale was found intact, and did not appear to suffer any unusual trauma. He suspects the whale simply washed up on the beach and became stranded.
Officer Coughran said he was specifically impressed with local residents who left their cyclone shelters to report the rare whale was found on the beach.
[Image via Shutterstock]