Space is often considered the final frontier, but planet earth’s oceans are a much greater mystery. Today it is estimated that nearly 95% of the world’s oceans have been explored. New species are discovered nearly everytime someone attempts a deep water dive, but as submarine technology improves marine biologists and oceanographers hope to venture deeper into the abyss and discover what lies below.
Their most recent find occured far from the depths when a new species of beaked whale washed up near the Pribilof Islands, part of the St. George island community. The carcass was found in June of 2014 and originally seemed to be one of the two existing species of beaked whales, Bairds Whale or Arnoux’s. However, after tissue samples were studied by molecular biologist Phillip Morin it was revealed to be an entirely new species of beaked whale.
“Clearly this species is very rare, and reminds us how much we have to learn about the ocean and even some of its largest inhabitants,” said Morin. The extensive evidence for the new species is published in the journal Marine Mammal Science.
Beaked Whales are rare species due to the amount of time they spend diving. Some of the whales can dive for hours at depths of over 1000 meters. They primarily feed on squid and other bottom dwelling marine creatures. The whales also hold the deepest recorded dive depth for any mammal, at 2,992 meters (9,816 feet). They can grow up to 40 feet in length and unlike other toothed whales, they only have one pair of tusk like teeth that is used for fighting in males but doesn’t develop in females.
Beaked Whales are also known to suffer from decompression sickness or “the bends”, a result of the water pressure at such extensive depths piling onto them. There are also theories that sonar can disorient these animals often leading to strandings.