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True’s beaked whale (Mesoplodon mirus) in Macaronesia

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Author(s)

Natacha Aguilar de Soto, Vidal Martín, Monica Silva, Roland Edler, Cristel Reyes, Manuel Carrillo, Agustina Schiavi, Talia Morales, Belen García-Ovide, Anna Sanchez-Mora, Nerea Garcia-Tavero, Lisa Steiner, Michael Scheer, Roland Gockel, Dylan Walker, Enrico Villa, Petra Szlama, Ida K. Eriksson, Marisa Tejedor, Monica Perez-Gil & 3 others João Quaresma, Wojtek Bachara, Emma Carroll

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Abstract

The True’s beaked whale (Mesoplodon mirus, True 1913) is a poorly known member of the Ziphiidae family. Its distribution in the northern hemisphere is thought to be restricted to the temperate or warm temperate waters of the North Atlantic, while a few stranding records from the southern hemisphere suggest a wider and antitropical distribution, extending to waters from the Atlantic coast of Brazil to South Africa, Mozambique, Australia and the Tasman Sea coast of New Zealand. This paper (i) reports the first molecular confirmation of the occurrence of the True’s beaked whale at the southern limit of its distribution recorded in the northeast Atlantic: the Azores and Canary Islands (macaronesian ecoregion); (ii) describes a new colouration for this species using evidence from a whale with molecular species confirmation; and (iii) contributes to the sparse worldwide database of live sightings, including the first underwater video recording of this species and close images of a calf. Species identification was confirmed in two cases using mitochondrial DNA control region and cytochrome b gene markers: a subadult male True’s beaked whale that stranded in El Hierro, Canary Islands, in November 2012, and a subadult male found floating dead near Faial, the Azores, in July 2004. The whale that stranded in the Canary Islands had a clearly delimited white area on its head, extending posteriorly from the tip of the beak to cover the blowhole dorsally and the gular grooves ventrally. This colouration contrasts with previous descriptions for the species and it may be rare, but it exemplifies the variability of the colouration of True’s beaked whales in the North Atlantic, further confirmed here by live sightings data. The recording of several observations of this species in deep but relatively coastal waters off the Azores and the Canary Islands suggests that these archipelagos may be unique locations to study the behaviour of the enigmatic True’s beaked whale.
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Original languageEnglish
Article numbere3059
Number of pages22
JournalPeerJ
Volume5
DOIs
StatePublished - 7 Mar 2017

    Research areas

  • Ziphiidae, Cytochrome b, mtDNA, Genetics, Colouration patterns, Phenotype, North Atlantic, Cetacean distribution, Canary Islands, Azores

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