The good news is, they are not extinct. The bad news, two extremely rare Spade-toothed beaked whales, a mother and her calf, beached themselves and died in New Zealand.
Discovered in 1872, no one had ever seen this species alive. The only proof that they hadn’t gone extinct were two skulls. A partial skull found in New Zealand in the 1950’s and one in Chile in 1986. Hard to believe this is the first time an entire whale has been seen considering they are over 5 meters in length.
The reason so little is known about these whales is that they are thought to live deep in the Pacific ocean and come up to breathe infrequently. Rochelle Constantine from the University of Auckland said, “It may be that they are simply an offshore species that lives and dies in the deep ocean waters and only rarely wash ashore. New Zealand is surrounded by massive oceans. There is a lot of marine life that remains unknown to us.”
The two whales actually came to shore in 2010, but they were mistaken for the more common Gray’s beaked whales. It was only after DNA analysis that their true identity was revealed. Perhaps this mother and son will teach scientists more information about the elusive Spade-toothed beaked whales. Otherwise, we consider the species lucky to not have to encounter humans regularly.