Science  07 Feb 2014:
Vol. 343, Issue 6171, pp. 585

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  1. Beaked Whale Species Resurrected


    A beaked whale of the species M. hotaula, stranded on the Seychelles, and a skull (right).


    The beaked whale Mesoplodon hotaula has regained its full taxonomic status, thanks to a gift of dried whale meat. M. hotaula was first described by a marine biologist in Sri Lanka in 1963, then eliminated as a species 2 years later when researchers decided it was identical to another beaked whale, M. ginkgodens. But in 2003, islanders on an atoll in the Gilbert Islands in the Indo-Pacific gave a marine biologist whale meat left over from a recent festival. Genetic analysis of that sample—as well as other meat, teeth, and bones from other islands—revealed a distinct species: the forgotten M. hotaula, the research team reports this week in Marine Mammal Science. Counting M. hotaula, there are now 15 known species in the Mesoplodon genus (to which most beaked whales belong), making it by far the most species-rich genus of cetaceans. Yet, less is known about these deep-sea–dwelling and deep-diving creatures with odd, prominent snouts than any other whale genus. Scientists have yet to see a living M. hotaula at sea.