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Rarest Whale, Never Seen Live, Leaves Clues Worthy Of Arthur Conan Doyle

November 7, 2012

Click the image to the left for a high resolution version of the same illustration from this month’s issue of Current Biology.  The full text version of the article (academic, but accessible for the motivated) can be found here, and its summary here:

The vast expanses of the South Pacific Ocean have, until recently, concealed the identity of the world’s rarest whale, the spade-toothed beaked whale (Mesoplodon traversii). Based on the scarcity of records and the total absence of previous sightings, this species is the least known species of whale and one of the world’s rarest living mammals. Two individuals of this species, previously known from only two skull fragments and a mandible, were recently discovered beach-cast in New Zealand. Although initially misidentified, we have used DNA analysis to reveal their true identity. We provide the first morphological description and images of this enigmatic species. This study highlights the importance of DNA typing and reference collections for the identification of rare species.

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