Three beaked whales were spotted last month by a team of scientists working with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society near the San Benito Islands, some 300 miles from the US border, according to a press release published Tuesday.
The team had set out to try to find out what kind of whales were making an unidentified acoustic signal previously recorded in the area.
Beaked whale experts working alongside Sea Shepherd’s scientific department managed to take photographs and video recordings of the three whales, and also recorded their acoustic signals using an underwater microphone.
Researchers Gustavo Cárdenas Hinojosa, Jay Barlow and Elizabeth Henderson are “highly confident” that the animals are a new whale species, according to the press release. Genetic sampling will be used to confirm whether they are correct.
“We saw something new. Something that was not expected in this area, something that doesn’t match, either visually or acoustically, anything that is known to exist,” said Barlow.
“It just sends chills up and down my spine when I think that we might have accomplished what most people would say was truly impossible – finding a large mammal that exists on this earth that is totally unknown to science.”
Each whale species emits a unique acoustic signal underwater and this sound has never been recorded before, plus initial analysis of the whales’ physical characteristics suggests this is a new species, according to the team.
“The discovery of a new species of beaked whale proves how much mystery there is left to discover in the oceans that our captains, crews, and research partners fight to defend,” said Peter Hammarstedt, Director of Campaigns for Sea Shepherd.