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Current Biology

The World's Rarest Whale

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Current Biology

In 1872, part of a damaged whale mandible and set of teeth were found on Pitt Island in New Zealand. Initially thought to be bones from the Scamperdown whale, also known as Gray’s beaked whale, it was not until 1874 that John Edward Gray—who had discovered the Gray’s beaked whale—examined the bones and assigned them to a new, never-before-seen species.

Debates among zoologists couldn’t pin down the name or classification of this new species. In the 1950s, a damaged skullcap was found on New Zealand’s White Island, and was assigned to many different species, later including the Bahamonde’s beaked whale (which was known from a damaged skull found in 1986 on Robinson Crusoe Island in Chile). It was not until 2002 that researchers matched the mandible and teeth from Pitt Island to the skulls from White Island and Robinson Crusoe Island, naming it the spade-toothed beaked whale, Mesoplodon traversii. Yet beyond those three bone fragments, nobody knew what it looked like, or really anything about it.

Then, in December of 2010, two whales—an adult female and a male calf—beached themselves on Opape Beach in the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand. They were initially categorized as Gray’s beaked whales, an echo of the situation upon the discovery in 1872. Further DNA research, however, identified these two whales as spade-toothed beaked whales, the first complete specimens ever seen.

Scientific American

How this species managed to avoid human eyes for so many years is unknown, but this is the first step toward learning more about the world’s rarest species of whale. The skeletal remains of the whales are now being kept at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.

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Animals
Watch a Panda Caretaker Cuddle With Baby Pandas While Dressed Up Like a Panda
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Some people wear suits to work—but at one Chinese nature reserve, a handful of lucky employees get to wear panda suits.

As Travel + Leisure reports, the People's Daily released a video in July of animal caretakers cuddling with baby pandas at the Wolong National Nature Reserve in China's Sichuan Province. The keepers dress in fuzzy black-and-white costumes—a sartorial choice that's equal parts adorable and imperative to the pandas' future success in the wild.

Researchers raise the pandas in captivity with the goal of eventually releasing them into their natural habitat. But according to The Atlantic, human attachment can hamper the pandas' survival chances, plus it can be stressful for the bears to interact with people. To keep the animals calm while acclimating them to forest life, the caretakers disguise their humanness with costumes, and even mask their smell by smearing the suits with panda urine and feces. Meanwhile, other keepers sometimes conceal themselves by dressing up as trees.

Below, you can watch the camouflaged panda caretakers as they cuddle baby pandas:

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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Animals
Watch a 40-Ton Whale Jump Completely Out of the Water
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If you’ve ever watched a humpback whale swim, you may have seen it launch most of its body out of the water and splash back into the ocean on its side or back. This behavior is called breaching, and scientists don't know exactly why the whales do it. Researchers have theorized that breaching might signal competition between males, serve as a warning to perceived threats, or stun the whale's prey for easier eating. A recent study suggested that the dramatic displays could be a method of long-distance communication.

Rarely are nature lovers lucky enough to glimpse a whale breaching completely out of the water. But in the video below—spotted by Bored Panda and filmed by scuba diver Craig Capehart off the coast of Mbotyi in southeastern South Africa—you can watch an adult humpback whale soar through the air, with its entire body and tail completely exposed.

[h/t Bored Panda]

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