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World's rarest whales found washed up on New Zealand beach


A pod of whales are seen off St Heliers Bay near Auckland, on New Zealand's north island.


Sandra Mu

Scientists have identified two whales that washed up in New Zealand as members of the world's rarest species of whale — the never-before seen spade-toothed beaked whale.

The mother and calf reportedly stranded themselves on Opape Beach on New Zealand's North Island in 2010 but were only recently ID'd with DNA testing as spade-toothed beaked whales.

According to London's Daily Telegraph, the species — discovered in 1872 — had until now remained entirely hidden from human view. 

The only sign that the creatures' continued existence in the 140 years since their bone fragments were found on a remote Pacific island was two partial skulls found in New Zealand in the 1950s and Chile in 1986, the Telegraph wrote.

The finding of the mother, 17 feet long, and 11-foot-long calf confirmed the species still existed.

A report describing the whales and the analysis of the whales' DNA appears in the Nov. 6 issue of the journal Current Biology.

Fox News cited a marine biologist at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, Rochelle Constantine, as saying: 

"Up until now, all we have known about the spade-toothed beaked whale was from three partial skulls collected from New Zealand and Chile over a 140-year period. It is remarkable that we know almost nothing about such a large mammal. This is the first time this species has ever been seen as a complete specimen, and we were lucky enough to find two of them."

Constantine reportedly said scientists initially mis-identified the mammals as Gray's beaked whales, which often wash up on New Zealand beaches.