BEACON TRANSCRIPT – A team of marine biologist was able to study a rare species of whales in detail last fall. Omura whales were sighted off Madagascar, providing the researchers with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Although the scientific community is aware for some time now about the existence of these sea creatures, little is known about them. In fact, those who discovered and catalogued the whale initially thought that the gentle beast is a pygmy whale belonging to an entirely different species.
The Omura whale was officially recognized as a species in 2003 when a group of researchers mistaken them for a group of pygmy Bryde’s whales. Realizing that the whales had nothing in common with Bryde’s, the researchers began to take more interest in this elusive species of whales.
Unfortunately, this gentle sea creature isn’t called rare for nothing. In fact, between their homologation as a species in 2003 and the 2015 expedition, the researcher have only sighted the whale only 44 times.
But last fall’s scientific expedition was considered a success since the researcher involved in the project sighted the elusive whale no less than 80 times. Moreover, the team of marine biologists, led by Doctor Salvatore Cerchio from New England’s Aquarium, identified no less than five distinct mother-calf families during their expedition.
Omura whales are considered to be tropical mammals, and the fact in itself is a little mind-boggling because there is little food to be had in the tropics. Still, Cerchio and his team managed to identify 5 Omura whale families off the coast of Madagascar.
During his Madagascar expedition, Cerchio also managed to unlock one of this mysteries surrounding this majestic creature: its feeding habits. As we’ve stated, the Omura whale usually lives in the tropic and, as we know food sources in this region are scarce.
But the team found out that the Omura whale feed on euphausiids, a small species of shrimps. Furthermore, during their investigation, the team also discovered that the Omura whales are baleen whales. This means that the gentle giant of the sea can filter its food thanks to the sieve-like structure found inside its mouth.
Based on their observation, it would seem that an adult Omura can measure 33 feet, meaning that the whale is a bit larger than the Minke whale which measures only 25 feet and a pygmy when compared to the majestic Blue Whale which measures more than 100 feet.
Apart from eating habits, the scientists were to determine how the whales communicate. Cerchio said that the whale use a low-intensity, yet rhythmic hum like noise to communicate with the other member and to initiate the mating process.
So far, the team managed to tape two weeks of whale songs, and they’ll be back in October to gather the rest of their recorded materials.
Omura whales were sighted off Madagascar, which led the scientists to believe that this particular group of whales fancy the waters around the Island for feeding and mating.