Elusive Whale Species Being Researched

A True’s beaked whale surfaces not far from the NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter. Courtesy of NOAA.

HYANNIS – True’s Beaked Whales, discovered about a century ago, have never been researched – until now.

A month-long research expedition approximately 200 miles off the shore of Cape Cod took place over the summer and included researchers from nine organizations.

The research is being touted as groundbreaking.

“These animals are not only an important part of the marine ecosystem, but they’re also part of our own New England natural heritage and it’s a species that’s living right offshore in our waters that nobody really knows anything about and I think it’s exciting for everyone in our area,” said ecologist Danielle Cholewiak.

First identified in 1913 by Frederick W. True, the species has only been opportunistically documented since then.

“Beaked whales are an extraordinary group of species,” Cholewiak said. “They dive to incredible depths to forage, and spend long periods of time deep underwater.”

The research group were able to gather photos, recordings, genetic material and even tagged one whale using a suction-cup digital acoustic recording tag (DTAG), which was developed at Woods Hold Oceanographic Institution.

“We tracked groups of animals for hours at a time to learn about their diving behavior, social behavior so the amount that we learned in the month we were out there increased our knowledge of the species exponentially,” Cholewiak said.

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