Scientists have announced the discovery of a new species of beaked whale in the waters off the Japanese coast.
Local whalers had long discussed the whales, which have now been identified as a new species, according to experts from Japan’s National Museum of Nature and Science and Hokkaido University.
Researchers studied the remains of six beached whales that had become stranded on the coasts of the Okhotsk Sea. Although the cetaceans shared some characteristics with Baird’s beaked whale species or Berardius bairdii, experts realized that they had a new species on their hands.
“Just by looking at them, we could tell that they have a remarkably smaller body size, more spindle-shaped body, a shorter beak, and darker color compared to known Berardius species,” explained curator Emeritus Tadasu K. Yamada of the National Museum of Nature and Science, who worked on the project, in a statement.
The new species, dubbed Berardius minimus, has a body length of between 20.3 feet and 22.6 feet, compared to the Baird's beaked whale, which typically measures about 32.8 feet.
“There are still many things we don’t know about B. minimus,” said Takashi F. Matsuishi, Ph.D., of Hokkaido University in a statement. “We still don’t know what adult females look like, and there are still many questions related to species distribution, for example. We hope to continue expanding what we know about B. minimus.”
The U.S. National Museum of Natural History also took part in the research, which is published in the journal Scientific Reports.
Japan recently resumed commercial whaling after a gap of 30 years, angering conservation groups.
Fox News’ Lucia I. Suarez Sang and the Associated Press contributed to this article. Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers