Monday, May 4, 2015

Aliens Among Us

A new species of whale may be cruising the icy cold waters of the Antarctic.
Scientists have recorded a unique whale song, which they can't identify, in the area. Evidence is tantalising, rather than strong, as the song could be from one of a few known species of beaked whale. But it's structure doesn't quite fit any known beaked whales... leaving open the possibility it's from a new species.
Although beaked whales comprise the 2nd-largest cetacean family (the group containing whales and dolphins), they're one of the most poorly-known groups of all large mammals.
Cuvier's beaked whales: it wasn't US!
All beaked whales are extremely elusive, diving deeply (to depths of over 9,000ft!!!) and spending very little time at the surface, which makes them difficult to spot. But they do produce unique sounds for echolocation, that scientists can use to track their movements.
New species of beaked whale are still being discovered - in 2014, a new discovery brought the total number of species to 22.
This strange signal, known as the Antarctic BW29 signal, was recorded more than 1000 times. It's unique in both its timing and the type of sounds making up the signal.
As well as BW29, the researchers also recorded another unique call on six other occasions, dubbed Antarctic BW37. This second signal was produced at a higher frequency. It's unknown yet whether this belongs to a different beaked whale species than the one producing Antarctic BW29.
So there's only one thing to do: allow Japanese "research" vessels down there to hunt the sources of BW29 and BW37, so they can carry out extensive "studies"...before they eat 'em!

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