For at least the last 15 years, marine biologists have been on the lookout for what's considered the world's rarest whale. Called the Omura's whale, the species became known only after researchers analyzed bits of DNA from past Japanese whaling expeditions and a few dead stranded individuals. No sightings had ever been made and it was feared the elusive creatures had gone extinct before they could even be discovered in the wild.
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An international team of biologists this week finally pulled back the curtain on the Omura, showing off the world's first video of the whale off the coast of Madagascar.
"Over the years, there have been a small handful of possible sightings of Omura's whales, but nothing that was confirmed," lead author Salvatore Cerchio said in a statement. “They appear to occur in remote regions and are difficult to find at sea because they are small—they range in length from approximately 33 to 38 feet—and do not put up a prominent blow."
For the past two years, the researchers were able to observe 44 groups of Omura's whale, as well collect skin samples from 18 individuals. They plan to continue their work this month with a focus on the whales' vocalizations, behavior and population characteristics. With further study and identification of its habits and feeding grounds, it's hoped the species will receive conservation protections to limit impacts from the commercial whaling and fishing industries.