Which whale is named for a newspaper publisher?


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Australia’s Heber Albert Longman (1880-1954) was a pioneer in scientific journalism, a self-taught scientist who began his career as a publisher after buying a defunct newspaper and turning it into the Downs Post. He then became the editor of the weekly newspaper, Rags, before becoming the director of the Queensland Museum.

In 1926 Longman described a species of whale that had never been seen before. He based his descriptions on the mysterious skull found in Queensland in 1895, but had not been officially described. A subsequent skull was found in Somalia in 1955, and the species was named for the Australian newspaperman who first described the animal: Longman’s beaked whale.

The whale remained a mystery with many researchers questioning if the animal was alive or extinct due to no live sightings. That ended in 2003 after a sighting confirmed the species was still alive. In the years to follow, the Longman’s beaked whale was confirmed in more than 65 sightings, making the whale one of the more popular of the beaked whales. (Though that is misleading: all beaked whales are notorious for their privacy, so even though the Longman’s beaked whale is seen more frequently than other beaked whales, their sightings are far fewer than other cetaceans.)