An international team of scientists identified a new species of beaked whale after conducting specimen analysis. Apparently, the new species called karasu (Japanese word for raven) is darker and about two-thirds the size of the Baird’s beaked whale.

According to the study’s co-author Erich Hoyt, a research fellow with Whale and Dolphin Conservation in the UK and co-director of the Russian Cetacean Habitat Project, Japanese whale researchers have seen the new species, although very rarely, but did not consider it as a new unidentified species of whale. Not much is known about the karasu but the researchers say that the new whale species ranges from northern Japan across the Pacific Ocean to the Aleutian Islands in Alaska.

The revelation, now published in the journal Marine Mammal Science, came from a DNA analysis of 178 beaked whales spotted around the Pacific Rim. These study samples also included specimens from the Smithsonian Institution, Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History, Unalaska High School in Alaska and another specimen that washed up on St. George Island in the Bering Sea.

beaked whale

In 2004, Reid Brewer of the University of Alaska Southeast measured an unusual beaked whale that turned up dead in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands. A tissue sample from the carcass later showed that the whale was one of the newly identified species. Credit: Don Graves

The results show that the new species is more closely related to Arnoux’s beaked whale from the Southern Hemisphere than to the Baird’s beaked whale. As of now, the research team is still waiting for the official recognition and naming of the karasu after the formal review of its characteristics and differences from beaked whales has been performed.

“The implication of a new species of beaked whale is that we need to reconsider management of both species to be sure they’re sufficiently protected, considering how rare the new one appears to be,” Hoyt points out. “Discovering a new species of whale in 2016 is exciting but it also reveals how little we know and how much more work we have to do to truly understand these species.”