A New Whale Species, Rice Whale, Has Been Identified In The Gulf
Marine science has always fascinated my family.
Even though our careers took us in different directions, two years ago there were serious discussions in our home between Captain Husband and myself about the possibility of the two of us returning to school to get our degrees in marine biology.
Needless to say, we were both intrigued and excited to hear this week that scientists, Dr. Patricia Rosel and Lynsey Wilcox had submitted an article determining that a new whale species has been identified in the Gulf of Mexico. The article was published in the esteemed Marine Mammal Science and indicates that the whale previously known as the Bryde’s is actually a new species altogether.
"The most noticeable morphological difference in the new species as compared to its closest relatives is found in the animal’s skull. Rosel was fortunate enough to be able to examine the skull of the whale in 2020 after one stranded in Florida off Everglades National Park in January of 2019. While losses of individuals of a rare species are detrimental to their long-term sustainability, the death and the subsequent efforts by marine mammal stranding network responders to recover and investigate stranded animals provide scientists an opportunity to thoroughly study the animal from top to bottom, inside and out," NOAA Fisheries reports.
The new whale which was previously dubbed, "The Gulf of Mexico Whale" has gotten its official name now, "Rice Whale", named after Dale Rice, a biologist who first suggested the whale's variance 60 years ago.
So here is the bad news, these whales are likely already close to extinction because of their feeding preferences.
Unlike most whales who feed closer to the top of the water, these whales prefer deeper waters. "Only about 33 of the whales are likely alive today, according to the most recent NOAA estimate, and they prefer the deep, dark waters of DeSoto Canyon, one of the busiest commercial areas of the Gulf, where cargo ships and oil drilling are a constant threat," NOLA reports.
We are stewards of the waters around us and hope there will be a time when we all are. The question now is how do we protect a species we've just discover from complete extinction?
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