New whale species ID’d in Gulf of Mexico

Once classified as a species of Bryde’s whale, a small group of whales in the Gulf of Mexico has been determined to be a new species. Credit: NOAA Fisheries

A small group of whales in the Gulf of Mexico was already the focus of conservation efforts, but recent research has confirmed the group of about 33 baleen whales make up a previously unknown species. Previously classified as a subspecies of Bryde’s whale, they were listed as endangered in the U.S. and critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Using DNA, bones and reports of sightings and strandings, NOAA researcher Pamela Rosel concluded the whales were a separate subspecies. She published her findings In Marine Mammal Science. Rosel named the new species Rice’s whale, or Balaenoptera ricei, after the scientist who first recognized that the whales lived in the Gulf.

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