True’s Beaked Whales, one of the most elusive animal species, have been caught on a footage released this Tuesday by a team of investigators led by specialist Natacha Aguilar de Soto. She has been studying these rare whales since the very beginning of the century.

The team of investigators led by Aguilar de Soto has spent many months floating in some of the ocean’s deepest areas. They have been observing any unusual movement that can present on the surface since these whales do not show themselves easily.

These mysterious beaked whales make up the second largest family of cetaceans. Image Credit: MotherBoard

The beaked whales are a family of 22 cetacean-like species that look a lot like regular dolphins and have missile-shaped body structures.

These whales are characterized by being some of the most elusive animals on Earth, as they swim longer and deeper than any other known mammal species.

Beaked whales spend more than 92 percent of their lifetime beneath the surface of the sea, according to approximations made by specialists.

Only a select and reduced number of persons have been able to see them alive, and thanks to the captured footage, now everyone with an internet connection can see this rare animal.

Footage of the True’s beaked whales: enigma unraveled 

Back in 2013, a colleague of Aguilar de Soto sent her a video taken on an educational trip done by a group of science students in the Azores. The 46-seconds long clip shows three oblong creatures that lazily swim in a brilliant blue sea.

Their pales are facing up, almost reaching the surface of the water. Afterward, the rare specimens start to vanish from the camera’s point of view, giving away less than a minute of live footage to the scientific community.

“Imagine, these are animals the size of elephants that we just can’t find. They’re a mystery. When I saw the video, I just couldn’t believe it,” said Aguilar de Soto, a marine biologist at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland and the University of La Laguna in the Canary Islands. “I thought, ‘My god, these are True’s beaked whales’.”

Along with the release of the footage, the investigation team published an exhaustive study in the journal PeerJ, that is oriented to the demystification of this rare animal.

In the paper, the scientists used combined data from genetic analyses done in individual whales from both hemispheres. They contrasted this information with the one gathered through strandings and sightings.

According to the lead author of the study, Aguilar de Soto, the study presented this Tuesday is one of the most “comprehensive surveys of scientific knowledge about True’s beaked whales.”

What do we know about True’s beaked whales?

This elusive species was first identified by Smithsonian scientist Frederick William True in 1913, and ever since there had been very rare pieces of information for investigators to produce accurate conclusions.

Even beaked whales experts are not able to determine crucial information texts like how much True’s beaked whales exist in the world.

There is so little information regarding this species’ looks and behavior that without any piece methodological basis it is impossible to count how much of them are in the world, and therefore, not knowing if there are just a few and could be considered as “endangered.”

“We don’t know how large the populations of True’s beaked whale or any other species are,” said Aguilar de Soto. “The populations could decline and we would never know.”

The known information regarding this species has shown how they are well-designed for living in deep sea conditions, and Aguilar de Soto acknowledges this feature. Their torpedo-shaped bodies have a set of characteristics that make their structure hydrodynamic, which is crucial for animals living in deep-sea conditions.

Scientists have not been able to tag these creatures, which means that they don’t know for sure how deep does these animals swim under the surface of the sea.

However, if True’s beaked whales are anything like their cousins, they could be able to reach the 9,816 feet below the surface, which represents a marine mammal record.

This record was discovered by a team of researchers at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography when they reported that a Cuvier’s beaked whale had reached the mentioned depth.

Aguilar de Soto has shown her concern regarding the possibility for this species of being in danger of extinction. However, she acknowledges the fact that further research and observations have to be made to determine if human influence is affecting the life of these particular creatures negatively, as Aguilar de Soto qualifies the published study in the journal PeerJ as the first step.

Source: The Washington Post