Even though we’re living in the 21st century, there are countless things we still don’t know about the world around us. And even though we’re planning on exploring other planets, and even colonizing them, there are still plenty of places left unexplored on our very own space rock.
The oceans, for example, while making up for 71% of the planet’s surface, remain mostly unexplored. And by mostly I mean that we’ve only explored about 5% of the world’s oceans. The remaining 95% are still mostly a mystery, even though we have some ideas of what might be hiding there.
With so much of our planet remaining a mystery, it’s not that hard to imagine that there still are species that we haven’t yet discovered. For example, we have just performed the first study ever on Omura’s whales near Madagascar. And the species was only discovered in 2003.
Initially believed to be pygmy Bryde whales, researchers eventually realized that the animals were, in fact, the reclusive and extremely rare Omura’s whales. While only 44 sightings have been reported of the elusive creatures since they were discovered, this recent study brought a whopping 80 sightings in a short period of time.
According to the man that examined them, Dr. Salvatore Cerchio,
Once we realized they were Omura’s whales, it was mind boggling because first of all, no one had studied these animals. No one had seen them or documented them in the wild, and they were not supposed to be in Madagascar. The work that we’ve done has extended their range significantly.
The population near Madagascar was discovered in 2013, but only last fall did the researchers get the budget to actually study them. And the bulk of the sightings took place since last fall. Despite the fact that the whales are part of a lineage going back 10 to 17 million years, it was only in the fall of 2015 that we got any actual data on them.
Interestingly, despite the fact that Omura’s whales are baleens, meaning that they filter their food similar to their cousins, the blue whales, they live in a place where very little food can be found for the likes of them. However, the colony was doing very well, eating tiny shrimp called euphausiids.
They were doing so well, in fact, that five pairs of mothers and calves were free to roam on their own near the island of Madagascar. This means the entire colony is doing well, otherwise the mothers and calves wouldn’t have been able to roam freely near the island.
Image source: Wikimedia