On a calm, cloudy morning in May 2019, a lookout on a research vessel lowered his binoculars and shouted, “Beaked whales! Beaked whales!” As lead scientist Massimiliano Rosso recalls it, the research crew sprang into action, focusing nervously on their assigned tasks of photographing the whales, recording video, scribbling observations, and timing the animals’ breaths and dives. “You know you have very little time and probably won’t have any other chances to get the data,” said Rosso, a marine biologist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Sanya, China. Rosso and a team of researchers from the academy were looking for rare beaked whales in the South China Sea, 300 kilometers (nearly 200 miles) from the island of Hainan. After reviewing their photos, they realized they had possibly recorded the first ever live sighting of the ginkgo-toothed beaked whale (Mesoplodon ginkgodens), or the first live sighting of the nearly identical Deraniyagala’s beaked whale (Mesoplodon hotaula) in the western Pacific Ocean. “I have spent the last 20 years carrying out research on beaked whales,” Rosso said. “But I still get excited every time I spot one.” The 50-meter (164-foot) research vessel Tianying, from where researchers made the newly reported beaked whale sightings. The research team surveyed a section of the South China Sea about 300 kilometers (nearly 200 miles) from the Chinese island of Hainan. They targeted areas near seamounts, underwater mountain tops rich with life, where beaked whales forage. Image by Mingming Liu/IDSEE. Beaked whales make up around 25% of…This article was originally published on Mongabay Läs mer

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