Scientists have captured a little-known whale on film for the first time, swimming off the coast of Madagascar. An international team of researchers observed the Balaenoptera omurai, or Omura’s whale, in the Indian Ocean, compiling their findings in the journal Royal Society Open Science.
First reported as a distinct species in a 2003 study, previous research on the whale has only involved dead specimens, beached or discovered in the course of whaling activity. This is the first study of living Omura’s whales, and the first time the species has been videotaped.
In total, the researchers had 44 sightings—including mothers with their calves—and captured high-quality video of three individual whales. They found that the whales, which live in tropical waters, are extremely asymmetrical in their coloring—their lower jaw is very pale white on the right side, and dark on the left. On the inside of their lips, the asymmetric coloring is reversed.
Banner image from Cerchio et al., Royal Society Open Science (2015)