Scientists Capture First Underwater Footage of Rare Beaked Whales

Roland Edler/Duisburg Zoo via Peer J
Roland Edler/Duisburg Zoo via Peer J / Roland Edler/Duisburg Zoo via Peer J

There’s a lot waiting to be discovered about the True’s beaked whale. The migration habits, social behaviors, and population size of the rare species still remain a mystery to scientists. Until recently, the creature had never been caught on tape swimming underwater. The footage below, reported by Discover, provides a never-before-seen look at the animals in the wild.

The video was recorded by science students in 2013. During an educational field cruise off the Azores, a pod of three True’s beaked whales congregated at the surface near their inflatable boat. The whales stuck around for close to 10 minutes, giving those on board enough time to deploy an underwater camera. The observations published by a team of international scientists in the journal Peer J are among a handful of live True’s beaked whale sightings reported in scientific literature.

In addition to the first-ever underwater footage of the whales in their natural habitat, the study authors published the first close-up photo taken of a True’s beaked whale calf. The paper also reports the discovery of tissue samples collected from beached whale specimens in the Azores and Canary Islands. Based on the sightings and the stranded specimens, scientists now believe the whales perform coordinated dives and sometimes brandish certain color patterns that hadn’t been observed in the species previously.

Beaked whales are some of the ocean’s most elusive mammals. They spend most of their time deep beneath the water's surface, and when they do come up for air they do little to draw attention to themselves. Three new species have been discovered in the past 20 years, including a new type of beaked whale identified last year with the help of a display skeleton from an Alaska high school. True’s beaked whales are distinguished by pale streaks stretching across the tops of their heads. Scientists now believe the Azores and Canary Islands hold potential for future sightings.

[h/t Discover]