New Mammal Discovery

A new mammal discovery? Yes, it’s official. The scientific community put a seal of approval on a new deep sea mammal. Deep sea mammals are a challenge to find, let alone study. Especially this new mammal species because it  spends time 6,000 feet under the ocean!

DEEP SEA MAMMALS

I’m excited but Louie was not, at least not initially. He hates the ocean and hates swimming.

I told him that we can read all about this cool new mammal discovery without getting wet.

New Mammal discovery_Louie
I like the land beneath me at all times.

Unfortunately, he can’t partake in my new chocolate cake discovery either, because of the chocolate!

With a bribe of his favorite salmon jerky, Louie acquiesced on both counts. Let’s take a tour of the deep sea, focusing on deep sea mammals.

chocolate cake
Chocolate & dogs is a no-no! Read more here.

But first, the new mammal discovery. (Mammal discoveries are rare. You can read why here!)

This post is about a new beaked whale!

NEW SPECIES OF WHALE: BEAKED WHALE

You’re wondering how a beak looks on a whale. Not as bad as Louie’s bucket hat .

If you check out the whale skull in the photo below, it does resemble a beak!

Louie hates swimming
My hat is gorgeous

In 2011, a pregnant, beaked whale washed up onto shore in New Zealand, which –obviously—made examination accessible. (and a little sad!)

Māori whale specialist Ramari Stewart discovered the whale. (below) This species is named after her.

new species of whale skull
Ramari Stewart holding Ramari's Beaked Whale skull courtesy Tanya Cumberland

NEW MAMMAL DISCOVERY : RAMARI'S BEAKED WHALE

Beaked whales are the most mysterious of all the whales. 
That's because they live far out at sea.
They spend their time diving 6000 feet below the surface for their main prey, squid.
They can stay under the surface for over an hour!
6000 feet doesn't seem deep in this graphic but it is > 1 mile down!
The ocean has an area of 139,400,000 square miles and an average depth of 2.3 miles.
That average depth stat astounded me.
They live in social groups containing up to 7 individuals.
Beaked whales have low, faint spouts, making scientific encounters difficult.
Adding to their mystery!
Small for a whale, this species weighs ~ 2000 lbs. & is 17 feet long.
Click Here
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NEW MAMMAL SPECIES: SIZE COMPARISON

size comparison baleen and toothed whales
Ramari's Beaked Whale is far smaller than the largest baleen and largest toothed whales

For a frame of reference, how about we back it up & gather some facts about whales!

NEW MAMMAL DISCOVERY_Whales
Whales, obviously.

SEA MAMMALS : BASIC WHALE FACTS

What isn’t as obvious is that there are two types of whales; baleen and toothed. The key difference between them is the way they feed and what they have inside their mouth.

Baleen whales have baleen plates, or sheets, which sieve prey from seawater.
Such as plankton & krill
Click here for more
BALEEN PLATE
Toothed whales have teeth & they actively hunt fish, squid, & other sea creatures
Really, Sue? You made a slide to type out that toothed whales have teeth?
YES, I did.
TEETH!
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If you went through the slide show above, you’re probably wondering why I included a photo of what is quite obviously a bottlenose dolphin.

Dolphins & porpoises all have teeth &-- rather confusingly-- are known as ‘toothed whales!'

TOOTHED WHALES = dolphins, porpoises,AND whales?

Yes, it's dumb but true

Another intriguing difference between baleen and toothed whales is the number of blowholes on top of their head!

ea Mammals_ Baleen Blue_Whale_two blowholes
Baleen Whales = 2 Blowholes
dolphin versus porpoise_one blowhole toothed whales
Toothed Whales = 1 Blowhole

DEEP SEA MAMMALS : BALEEN WHALES con't

Humpback whale & calf courtesy NOAA
There are only 14 Baleen whale species!
I say 'only' because there are 76 toothed whale species!
Click Here
Most baleen whales are migratory
Much more whale food is available in cold polar oceans but these environments are risky & challenging for vulnerable newborn whales who thrive in warmer seas.
Poor humpback calf didn't survive
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Deep Sea Mammals Baleen Whale Bryde's Whale (Balaenoptera edeni)
A Baleen Whale Bryde's Whale (Balaenoptera edeni)

SEA MAMMALS : TOOTHED WHALES

Okay, so toothed whales are predators. How do they find their prey on a planet that is covered with 71% water for a total of 360 million square kilometers?

Suspect looks guilty
We know how!

Keep reading and you’ll know how, too!

Echolocation!
What? I thought bats used echolocation?
Bats do navigate via echolocation!
Toothed whales use echolocation, too!
Echolocation enables them to hunt & navigate their underwater world.
Sonar loosely means that an animal releases a series of sounds -- that may or may not be audible to humans -- & waits for the echoes to return.
A structure in their foreheads, called the melon generates the sonar
Click Here
Not these melons
Sound waves are created in the nasal sacs and focused through the melon at various frequencies, allowing the toothed whale to "see" with sound. The sound waves travel through the melon and into the water and bounce off of delicious objects of interest.
NOT a delicious object
Don't worry, I am not setting one paw in the ocean.
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As an aside, in ultrasound imaging, echoes are produced when sound waves bounce off tissues. 

ULTRASOUND 1 WEEK FETUS
1 week old fetus thanks to sonar ala toothed whales!

DOLPHINS VERSUS PORPOISES

As I’d said, I was surprised to learn that the toothed whales include all species of dolphins & porpoises.

And I admit that I didn’t know the differences between dolphins versus porpoises. But I do now! 

Let’s sort it out.

dolphin swimming under water
A dolphin is a toothed whale!
sea mammals_ harbor-porpoise_Erik Christensen wikimedia commons
A porpoise is a toothed whale, too!
Dolphin v. Porpoise
Dolphin v. Porpoise teeth
In some parts of the world, the word ‘dolphin’ & ‘porpoise’ is used interchangeably, but they are not the same species.
Click Here
There are five families of dolphins comprising 48 total species.
There are only seven species of porpoises.
Dolphins are more talkative.
Maybe I’m part dolphin! (rare selfie)
Dolphins have complex social systems.
Clicks and whistles are their way of communication w/ other dolphins, which helps coordinate hunting.
Click Here
All dolphins & porpoises are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act
Click Here
Sadly, some are listed under the Endangered Species Act.
Click Here
One similarity is extreme intelligence!
Both have large, complex brains
LIKE ME!
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WHALES, DOLPHINS, AND PORPOISES

Dolphins & porpoises are at the top of the food chain
They play an important role in the overall balance of the marine environment.
Dolphins, porpoise & whales belong to a group of marine mammals called cetaceans.
Click Here
These animals are sentinel species.
Sentinel species are more commonly used as indicators of health threats to humans, rather than of the health threats in a particular ecosystem or habitat.
Click Here
All cetaceans (whales, dolphins, and porpoises), all sirenians (manatees and dugongs) and several marine carnivores (seals, otters, walrus, and polar bears) are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora
Click Here
13 whale species & 3 dolphin species are endangered in North America alone
Porpoises are ok North America....getting off the soapbox now.
Click Here
For more about mammals and protections, I've got a great post about wolves.
Click Here
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SEA MAMMALS : ORCA

sea mammals_Orca Whale
I'm an Orca! Am I a whale?

Orcas are sometimes called killer whales

ARE ORCAS WHALES?

NO!

Orcas are actually the world's largest dolphins.

“Killer” is an unfair designation. This happened because remains of cute little seals have been found in orca’s stomachs. No one calls a blue whale a ‘killer’ when it sucks in 8000 pounds of krill every day.

seal
I am cuter than krill.
Krill
I am cuter than a seal.
Louie likes it on land_ Make Sense of Science
I am cuter than both those guys.

Even NOAA uses the headline ‘killer whale’ to gain views! (video below about a possible new species of orca…not yet official.)

For a peek at another of my favorite species, octopus, click on this link. (Okya, octopus are not deep sea mammals, but they are cool.) A new species of deep sea octopus made the books last year!

Dumbo octopus
Credit: NOAA OKEANOS EXPLORER Program, Gulf of Mexico 2014 Expedition

DEEP SEA MAMMALS

WE MADE SENSE OF SCIENCE!

What a fun romp in the ocean with the cetaceans! Even Louie agrees!

And you had a front row seat! (Yes, I’ve been fiddling around with pasting photos in photos. It’s fun, too.)

Now for the most important questions; seals or krill? Which is cuter? Which one would you eat?

MAKE SENSE OF SCIENCE W SUE & LOUIE
Sit in the front row!

DON'T MISS OUT ON YOUR FRONT ROW SEAT!

SUBSCRIBE & WE'LL MAKE SENSE OF SCIENCE TOGETHER.

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58 thoughts on “New Mammal Discovery”

  1. Love this post.

    You make science so much fun and I always feel informed after one of your posts.

    I love dolphins and its interesting to find out about this new discovery.

    Reply
  2. Cool whales! The mile down graphic was eye-opening – I always found it hard to even swim to the bottom of the deep end of the local pool! Great research as always!

    Reply
  3. That’s seems usually small for a while that dives so deep for squid. I thought the only quid hunters were Sperm Whales. I’m also surprised to find out dolphins are classed as a toothed whale, I thought whales and dolphins were two completely different species

    Reply
    • The toothed whale classification surprised me, too. Ramari’s beaked whale is newly discovered last month, so you weren’t really off about squid hunters! It’s amazing that such a small animal can dive so deep, I agree. Thanks!

      Reply
  4. I always laugh with your dog participating in your posts with its own unique way! So much info here. I only new some things about dolphins which I totally admire. I had no idea that they belong to the same family as wales. The deep sea is another world full of fascinating creatures.

    Reply
  5. Wow this is incredible! I love these facts you’ve shared with us, I didn’t know these facts about ocean animals. Thank you so much for sharing with us! Xo

    Elle – ellegracedeveson.com

    Reply
  6. I loved your post so much! Science has become such a critical matter nowadays. But you have made easy than the usual. I enjoyed your article from top to bottom!

    Reply
  7. How interesting! I love everything to do with under the sea and find it so fascinating. It’s incredible how there are still undiscovered creatures!

    Reply
  8. This is really cool. It’s quite amazing really that this was able to be discovered considering as you said, that it lives so far in the depths of the ocean. Although it’s sad how we know more about it, due to the dead whale washing up on NZ, at least we can learn more about it.

    Reply
    • I thought it sad too, that we only learned about this species due to the death of two of its own. In spite of that, the mysteries of the ocean and animal adaptations never cease to amaze me. I’m happy that you stopped by! Thanks.

      Reply
  9. That was so fascinating and indepth. I love reading about new discoveries within the world. It makes me think how many more are undiscovered. The sea is so beautiful and interesting. Now if you can find me a mermaid and tell me how I can transform lol

    Reply
  10. I told Flora about the new mammal discovery and showed her your blog post – she really enjoyed learning all the facts (despite the sadness), and she loved all the animations too. And we would have to say seals are cuter although we wouldn’t eat either seals or krill, Sue!

    Reply

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Susan Berk Koch author

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