Posted Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012, at 3:45 PM
Photo by PABLO PORCIUNCULA/AFP/GettyImages
The spade-toothed beaked whale is so rare that it was thought to be extinct, but scientists have confirmed that two dead specimens found on the New Zealand coast are a mother and calf that beached in 2010.
The discovery of the first-ever specimens was nearly thwarted because local workers buried the whales’ bodies after misidentifying them as a more common species. Researchers later determined via DNA samples that they were in fact spade-toothed whales.
Before the historic find, little was known about the elusive whales, the existence of which was only confirmed previously by bone fragments. The species has yet to be observed alive.