The New England Aquarium announced on Thursday that its Omura whale study off the coast of Madagascar was nothing less than a resounding success. The rare tropical whale study led by Dr. Salvatore Cerchio claimed 80 sightings last fall when prior to their expedition only 44 sightings (in total) had been made since the whale was discovered.

Omura Whales In All Their Rarity Will Finally Be Studied

The Omura was only recognized as a unique species in 2003

For years, the tropical Omura was mistakenly taken to be pygmy Bryde’s whales and the study by Dr. Salvatore Cerchio and his fellow researchers was a first.

“Once we realized they were Omura’s whales, it was mind boggling because first of all, no one had studied these animals,” said Dr. Cerchio in an interview with Fox News. “No one had seen them or documented them in the wild and they were not supposed to be in Madagascar. The work that we’ve done has extended their range significantly.”

I have to come clean a bit as I’ve often respected the whaling traditions of Scandinavia and Japan but if they got anywhere near this species I would lose it. Whales are truly lovely creatures and deserve protection.

As the resident science writer at ValueWalk, it’s difficult not to sit in awe of discoveries and innovations realized each and every day. It amazes me that in this day and age a species of whales whose lineage goes back over 10 million years can only now be the focus of a study for the first time.

The whales do indeed look like Bryde’s whales but do have a distinctive head ridge as well as strange pigmentation on their noggins as well.

Omuras like the tropics

The existence of the Omuras in the tropics makes little sense. The tropics offer little in the way of sustenance sufficient for something as large as a, well, whale. They are unique in that they don’t seem to mind and don’t venture out of the tropics. The baleen whales seem plenty content to feast on shrimp and stay busy in the pursuit of larger morsels not to be found on a regular basis.

“The fact we are seeing them feed – and getting data on what they are feeding on,” said Cerchio, “is a great opportunity to learn about an ecosystem and how the species fits into that ecosystem.”

All baleen whales filter food through a built in, for lack of another word, sieve. That sieve, located in the mouths of the baleen dictates snacking rather than over-eating in a single meal.

“The fact we are seeing them feed – and getting data on what they are feeding on,” said Cerchio, “is a great opportunity to learn about an ecosystem and how the species fits into that ecosystem.”

Other baleen whales include the massive Blue whale as well as the Minke whale. Size wise the Omura is just a touch bigger than the Minke at 33 feet in length.

While their tropical life interests the researchers their song is not without its merits from a research standpoint and the team looks forward to their April return to recover the recorders they placed in the waters last October.

“They sing a very simple but interesting song. It’s very rhythmic and they repeat the same vocalization for hours on end,” Cerchio told Fox News. “You have groups of animals singing in a chorus … These guys are feeding, breeding, and singing all in the same habitat.”

Hopefully, the team will receive the funding they seek in order to continue their study this fascinating species.