The whales are a sight to behold — and a rare one, at that.
But researchers studying the relatively unknown Omura’s whales near Nosy Be, a small island off the northwest coast of Madagascar, have managed to strike gold a second time, and they’ve shared their new findings with the public.
Dr. Salvatore Cerchio, a marine mammal biologist at the New England Aquarium, this week released a nearly two-minute video of the elusive and mysterious ocean creatures in their natural habitat. The video was posted to the Aquarium’s website.
In the video — it’s the second of its kind from Cerchio and his team of international biologists — the Omura’s whales are seen gliding smoothly near the surface, then dipping deep into the turquoise waters.
The video also shows the whales expanding their throat pleats to consume krill; mother and calf pairs swimming side-by-side; and the species’ distinct markings and colorations, according to a statement from the Aquarium.
Omura’s whales, which are often confused for Bryde’s whales, have a white lower right jaw, a dark lower left jaw, and a white wash of pigmentation, or blaze, on the right side of their bodies.
Little is known about the whales, and experts aren’t sure how many of them are alive today.
In October, Cerchio released the first-ever confirmed video of the whales, which e took during an expedition in 2013 near the northwest portion of the island.
That video was accompanied by a study of the whales, which was published in the Royal Society Open Science journal. The study is believed to be the first confirmed pictures and field observations of the whales in the wild.
Cerchio returned to Madagascar to continue his research with a team of biologists a month after the video was released. That’s when he was able to capture the latest footage.
“Cerchio has been studying marine mammals around Madagascar since 2004, but this past trip was a whale jackpot,” according to a statement from the Aquarium. “The Omura’s whales were seen in record numbers.”
Nearly twice as many Omura’s whales were seen during the most recent trip than all of Cerchio’s previous trips combined, Aquarium officials said.
Cerchio, who is also a guest investigator at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, on Cape Cod, will return to Madagascar in May. His research was funded by the US Marine Mammal Commission, according to Aquarium officials.Steve Annear can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.