WELLINGTON, New Zealand - The Associated Press
The rare spade-toothed whales have washed up on a New Zealand shore.
The spade-toothed beaked whale is so rare that nobody has seen one alive, but scientists are sure the species 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 yesterday 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.