True's beaked whales are so elusive, we just now have the opportunity to see what they look like swimming underwater. Footage published on Tuesday shows the "first underwater video of True's beaked whales."
The video ties in with a paper published online in the PeerJ journal. True's beaked whales are a bit of a mystery. They're believed to mostly live in the North Atlantic and there are very few live sightings on record.
"The recording of several observations of this species in deep but relatively coastal waters off the Azores and the Canary Islands suggests that these archipelagos may be unique locations to study the behavior of the enigmatic True's beaked whale," the paper says.
The video shows a group of three whales gracefully swimming through the blue water. It's a brief glimpse, but you can see the elongated dolphin-like faces that lend them the name "beaked" whales.
True's beaked whale is named for American biologist Frederick True, who was the first to describe the species in the early 1900s.
The study looks at identifications of True's beaked whales through genetic analysis of stranded animals and eyewitness sightings out in the ocean. Researchers found quite a bit of variability in the animals' color patterns. They can also easily be confused with other types of beaked whales.
Scientists hope this closer look at True's beaked whales combined with the genetic studies will help lead to a better understanding of the rare whales' behavior and distribution.
Future studies may address whether groups of True's beaked whales located in the northern and southern hemispheres may actually be different species. The paper shines a little more light on a murky subject, but there's still much left unknown.
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