Whales found in New Zealand in 2010 identified as 'rarest marine mammal'
Two whales that beached themselves in New Zealand in 2010 have now been identified as belonging to the world's rarest and perhaps most enigmatic marine mammal.
The beached whales, a 17ft (5.2m) adult and her 11ft male calf, were discovered on Opape Beach on the North Island on New Year's Eve in 2010, the independent reported.
However, conservation workers thought they were Gray's beaked whales and burying them after taking tissue samples.
Now, researchers from New Zealand and the United States has identified them as rare spade-toothed beaked whales, the species which is so rare that nobody has seen one alive.
"For the first time we have a description of the world's rarest and perhaps most enigmatic marine mammal," the Independent quoted researchers as writing in a paper published yesterday in the journal Current Biology.
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.
"This is pretty fantastic. There would be few, if any, mammalian species in the world that would be rarer. And we know much more about pandas and other iconic, rare animals," said Ewan Fordyce, a geology professor at the University of Otago.