Skip to comments.Whale-sized interest in giant mammal on beach
Posted on 04/22/2003 9:15:08 PM PDT by green team 1999
Whale-sized interest in giant mammal on beach
23 April 2003
By RENEE KIRIONA
A whale of mystery found dead on a Taranaki beach has the world of marine science excited.
The rare ginkgo-toothed whale was found at an Onaero beach and is one of the most important mammal marine finds in recent history, according to Department of Conservation (DOC) programme manager Bryan Williams.
The almost-two-tonne whale is the first of its species to wash up on New Zealand shores, the third in the Southern Hemisphere and just the 20th in the world.
The discovery was made by Pam and John Rochester, of the Onaero Bay Motor Camp.
"We've never seen a beached whale before, plenty of seals though, so it was a bit of a fluke for it to turn up on our coastline," Mr Rochester said.
The April 9 find had already attracted interest from scientists in Australia, United States and Japan.
"There are about 29 species of whale and out of all of them, almost nothing is known about the ginkgo-toothed species," Mr Williams said.
"It's unfortunate the whale washed up dead, but it's probably the most exciting thing that has happened in the scientific world of mammal marine science for some time," he said.
Much information was expected to be derived from the specimen, thought to have died from natural causes, compared with others which were found decomposed.
Following approval by Ngati Mutunga, the female whale, measuring 4.8 metres long, was transported by DOC to Massey University in Palmerston North where its internal organs were being used for research purposes.
Its skeleton was being stored at Te Papa museum in Wellington.
"It's an extraordinary find and is something completely unknown to our waters," the museum's collection manager of marine mammals, Anton van Helden, said.
While New Zealand shores, particularly those of Nelson, Marlborough and the East Coast, were no stranger to whale strandings, Mr Williams said it was rare in Taranaki because the coast here was not shallow.
Ginkgo-toothed whales were known to live in warm deep waters, especially in the Northern Hemisphere, but with the warm temperatures recently recorded in the Tasman it was no surprise one was found here, Mr Williams said.
The species was first recorded in Japanese waters in 1958 and gets its name from the oriental ginkgo tree.
for information and discusion only,not for profit etc,etc.
That must really be something to ceta"see". <|:)~
Adult males are dark grey but females are lighter with pale undersides. The teeth on the lower jaw are found towards the middle of the beak and erupt only in mature males. The longest female measured 4.9m, the longest male 4.7m (Ward 2001).
Ginkgo-toothed whales are found in the tropical and warm temperate waters of the Indopacific; they have been recorded from Sri Lanka, the Strait of Malacca, Taiwan, Kyushu, the Pacific coast of Honshu, New South Wales, the Chatham Islands, southern California, the west coast of northern Baja California Sur, and the Galapagos Islands (Rice, 1998).
Palacios (1996) summarised that Mesoplodon ginkgodens is only known from 15 stranding records. Of these, eight are from the western North Pacific (Japan and Taiwan), three from the South Pacific (one from the Chatham Islands and two from Australia), and two from the Indian Ocean (Sri Lanka and Indonesia). The remaining two records are from the eastern North Pacific: a female stranded at Del Mar, California, U.S.A., in 1954 and a skull collected on 30 December 1980 at Playa Malarrimo, outside Laguna Ojo de Liebre (Scammon's Lagoon), Baja California, Mexico. Palacios (1996) documents an additional record of a specimen of M. ginkgodens from the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador, eastern tropical Pacific. Furthermore, Anderson et al. (1999) report on recent strandings on the Maldives in the Indian Ocean. Baker and van Helden (1999) describe stranded specimens found on New Zealand beaches, but this was a mis-identified specimen of M. grayi (M. Dalebout, pers. comm.).
3. Population size
4. Biology and Behaviour
The Ginkgo-toothed Beaked Whale is very poorly known. Nothing is known about its behavior, but it is likely to be unobtrusive. Probably Mesoplodon gingkodens occurs in small groups. The lack of scarring suggests little or no aggression between males; at least, the teeth are not involved in fights. Confusion is most likely with other beaked whales, such as Blainville's, Andrews' Hubbs', Stejneger's and Cuvier's Beaked Whales (Carwardine, 1995).
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