Researchers are saying there’s a new whale species found near Antarctica, but although they think it is new type of beaked whale, the only evidence they have so far for the ocean creature’s existence is its whale song.
So far, scientists only know the potential new whale species by its signal, known as Antarctic BW29 and Antarctic BW37. These recordings were made aboard a research vessel sailing the waters near the South Orkney Islands, South Shetland Islands, and Antarctic Peninsula. These frigid waters hold many undiscovered things, and they believe these unique whale songs confirm at least one, and potentially two, new whale species.
The two new signals were recorded using an underwater hydrophone array that was towed 200 meters behind the research ship, according to Whales.org. Antarctic BW29 was recorded more than 1,000 times. The timing and type of sound it made is considered unique, since the whale song’s structure does not fit the profile of any known beaked whales.
This was considered remarkable, since the sub-species of beaked whales are the only cetaceans known to be capable of using FM signals for their echolocation. They use upsweep pulses that are apparently unique to each species, and this particular signal does not match any of the 22 known species of beaked whales.
The signal known as Antarctic BW37 may also identify a new whale species, but it was only recorded six times.
“It remains unknown whether this belongs to a different beaked whale species than the one producing Antarctic BW29,” write the researchers, according to BBC. “Lastly, given that new species of beaked whale are still being discovered, the source of these Antarctic signals might be a species that has yet to be identified.”
This second whale song was at a higher frequency, and the research team is uncertain what type of new beaked whale could produce this particular sound. Since frequency corresponds to whale size, it is possible a smaller known species created this higher frequency whale song, but it is also possible the researchers have found a new whale species.
The complete findings of the research team were published in Marine Mammal Science earlier in 2015. The reason why there seems to be a hint of uncertainty in the researcher’s report is because finding new whale species can be difficult, especially in regards to sub-species of the beaked whales. These particular types of whales are known for being deep water foragers, and some of the beaked whales have been recorded diving down almost two miles for hours at a time.
[Image via Whaleopedia]