One of the world's most mysterious whales filmed for the first time

Omura's whales are 12 metres long and have previously never been seen alive

Samuel Osborne
Monday 02 November 2015 22:55
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An Omura's whale swims off the coast of Madagascar
An Omura's whale swims off the coast of Madagascar

One of the world's most mysterious whales has been filmed for the first time in its natural habitat off the coast of Madagascar.

The Omura's whale, which has a body almost as long as a school bus, had only been given its name based on dead specimens in 2003.

Since then, there had been no confirmed sightings until a team of marine biologists discovered a population of the elusive creatures living near Madagascar.

In the video, the whale can be seen swimming a few metres beneath the surface of the ocean.

Growing up to 12 metres long, Omura's whales have asymmetrical black and white markings along the entire length of their body. Their right side is lighter while the left is darker.

“I was excited because I knew we had found Omura’s whale," lead researcher Doctor Salvatore Cerchio told the BBC.

“Some teammates thought it might be a new species and began to think of new names.”

Over two years, Dr Cerchio's team observed 44 groups and collected skin biopsies from 18 adult whales.

They found Omura's whales likely feed on tiny zooplankton by taking in large mouthfuls of water and filtering it through hairy sieve-like teeth, known as baleen.

Dr Cerichio said he will return to Madagascar to study the whales' vocalisations, behaviour and population characteristics. He is looking at tagging the animals to track their movements.

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