Which whale was not seen alive until 2003?


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It wasn’t until a live sighting in 2003 proved that the Longman’s Beaked Whale was still alive after only skulls being of the species for more than a century. Considered one of the rarest cetaceans for the entire 20th century, the Longman’s beaked whale was only known and described from two skulls found on the beach (Australia in 1895 and Somalia in 1955). Fears of the animal’s extinction were abated in 2003 and since the first live sighting more than 65 sightings have been recorded, enough for beaked whale to become listed as one of the most identified beaked whales in the wild.

That said, there is still very little known about this species which is common for beaked whales. There are 22 species in the Family Ziphiidae (beaked whales) and they are all so similar in appearance that even experienced researchers have difficulty telling species of them apart even when they’re dead. Adding to the difficulty are the shared behavioral traits of beaked whales that help maintain their anonymity: they maintain a low profile above the surface, avoiding breaching or attention-getting techniques displayed by other whales. Instead, beaked whales will typically make little noise or show when breathing at the surface despite often being in pods of up to 20 individuals and occasionally in groups as large as 50. Beaked whales also feed in deep water, often in depths of 2,500-4,000 feet (800-1,200 m), further complicating research on the animals.