Rumors of Japanese fishermen about the existence of a different whale than known were true; a new species of cetacean Berardius minimus was discovered off the coast of Hokkaido Island by a group of scientists.
It is a species of mysterious little black whales that fishermen and whalers from Hokkaido, in northern Japan, had seen for years on the island and decided to call it Kurotsuchikujira (black Baird’s pigeon whale).
Scientists from Hokkaido University, Iwate University, the National Museum of Nature and Science and the National Museum of American History followed the fishermen’s trial, reviewed the existing literature, studied the remains of several cetaceans found in the area, looked for new traces and confirmed the find, indicates DNA40.
In a joint statement, the expert group unveiled the discovery and detailed that it is a bearded whale that prefers deep ocean waters and has a great diving capacity, making it difficult to see.
Stranding Network Hokkaido, a research group founded and administered by Professor Takashi F. Matsuishi of Hokkaido University, collected six unidentified beaked whales along the shores of the Okhotsk Sea.
“The specimens shared characteristics of B. Bairdii (Baird’s cock) and were classified as belonging to the same genus Berardius,” the text said.
However, a number of distinguishable external characteristics, such as body proportions and color, led experts to investigate whether these whales belong to a currently unclassified species.
“Just by looking at them, we could say that they have a noticeably smaller body size, more spindle-shaped, a shorter bill and a darker color compared to the known Berardius species,” explained Tadasu K. Yamada, curator emeritus of the National Museum of Nature and Science of the research team.
In addition, detailed cranial measurements and DNA analyses further emphasized the significant difference of the other two species in the genus. Its body length (between 6.2 and 6.9 meters) is clearly shorter than that of other known species (10 meters), according to the report, published by the journal Scientific Reports.
The studies were conducted in terms of their morphology, osteology (bone analysis) and phylogeny (comparative of their DNA with that of other known species).