Scientists have found the largest population of a rare tropical whale species that only last year was videotaped for the first time.
Led Dr. Salvatore Cerchio from the New England Aquarium, about 80 Omura's whales of Madagascar were spotted in November off the coast. That doubled the number of sightings in the entire research record of these whales and included five mother/calf pairs and several whales seen before – indicating this might be a resident population living around the island nation off the southeast coast of Africa.
Cerchio first grabbed headlines when his team in October released the first-ever video of these rare, 33- to 38-foot, tropical whales. A month later, Cerchio returned to Madagascar just as unprecedented levels of "tiny shrimp" known as euphasiids were being found in the water. That hinted that there might be plenty of whales around.
And there were.
The 80 whales offered researchers plenty of subjects to study, allowing them to gather reams of audio and video data of things like their feeding behavior as well as mother/calf pairs and the species' distinct irregular marking and colorings around their head.
The team also collected two weeks of continuous acoustic data from remote recorders including dense choruses of Omura's songs.