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Rare Discovery: Elusive Omura Whale Spotted on Great Barrier Reef for the First Time [Video]

Dec 15, 2016 08:13 AM EST
Great Barrier Reef
Algae will soon take over the Great Barrier Reef, a new study published in the journal Scientific Reports revealed.
(Photo : Phil Walter/Getty Images)

One of the world's most elusive whale surfaced for the first time on the great barrier reef. Passengers aboard a dive boat spotted the omura whale two weeks ago, but the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority just confirmed its identity yesterday.

The omura whale sighting happened at Mission Beach and adds to a previous confirmed sighting of the animal in Madagascar last year, Herald Sun reports.

The divers from Reef Express, a snorkeling tour company in Queensland, recorded a video of the encounter but had no idea that the creature was, in fact, a rare omura whale. This is the first confirmed sighting of the said species in the Great Barrier Reef.

"That morning we'd seen it in the distance, about half a kilometre away, so we knew there was a whale of some sort in the area. We stopped the vessel and turned the motors off - we were fairly determined we were going to wait and see if it popped up somewhere else - and low and behold it popped up 15 metres away from the boat, which was pretty surprising," said Reef Express owner Kerryn Bell.

"It was quite a shock for all of us because none of us had actually seen a whale like that. The last thing we expected was to see any sort of whale, let alone one of the rarest whales in the word," she added.

Meanwhile, Chris Jones, the Great Barrier Marine Park Authority sightings network manager, said the species was so rare that they needed help from an expert to confirm its identity.

An expert studying the omura in Madagascar confirmed the sighting on the Great Barrier Reef. Jones said that the animal was about 16 meters, The Sydney Morning Herald reports.

According to Earth Touch News Network, Omura's whales (Balaenoptera omurai) is a baleen whale that has a unique two-toned jaw, which is white on the right side and black on the other side. Growing between 33 and 38 feet, the Omura's whales existence was only confirmed by Japanese researchers in 2003.

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