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Shy whale surfaces for first time in quarter

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#1    __Kratos__



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Posted 10 September 2006 - 02:52 AM

A LITTLE-KNOWN species of whale has been seen alive and well in British waters for the first time in more than 25 years.
The sighting of two Sowerby’s beaked whales surfacing together in the Moray Firth is the first time healthy specimens have been observed since 1980 and was described as quite extraordinary.

In the past 36 years there have been 46 strandings of Sowerby’s, all of them dead or dying. The live pair were spotted by Alan Airey, an observer for the Sea Watch Foundation, who was scanning the inner waters of the Moray Firth from Fort George. He watched as they surfaced four times “in perfect unison” before disappearing and swimming away.

There are 21 species of beaked whale but little is known about any of them. Some are so rare that they are known to exist only because bodies have been washed ashore. Sowerby’s beaked whales (Mesoplodon bidens) are reclusive creatures that stay away from shipping and are rarely seen.

They are believed to live mostly in the temperate and sub-Arctic waters of the eastern and western Atlantic and are identifiable by their distinctive narrow beaks and two teeth protruding upwards from their lower jaw. They grow to about 5m, feed on molluscs and have slender bodies.

They were the first species of beaked whale to be discovered, when one of them was washed up in the Moray Firth in 1800. A fin whale, the second-largest species in the world, was seen several weeks earlier in the same place and it was assumed that it was following food but the two species eat different prey.

Hanna Nuutilla of Sea Watch, a marine research charity, said: “There were two and they appeared healthy. It was an extraordinary sighting. Although we have had 46 strandings, to see them alive is really quite extraordinary. And no strandings have been reported since they were seen so we are hopeful about their prospects.”

The species has never been seen so close to the shore in a healthy condition. The 1980 sighting of four Sowerby’s whales took place in the Channel approaches, miles from land. Three Northern bottlenose whales, the same species that swam up the Thames several months ago, were also seen recently off the Inner Hebrides from a ferry, and another freed itself after becoming entangled in fishing gear off Sunderland.

Had to be quite the sight. Kind of a shame we don't know more about them... Then again proding a rare spieces isn't the wisest thing always to do.

"Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." ~Philip K. Dick

#2    GreenmansGod


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Posted 10 September 2006 - 12:19 PM

Here is a link to info on Sowerbys Beaked Whale

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