Tech & Science Bayside beach helps unlock mystery of smallest whale

02:36  12 july  2018
02:36  12 july  2018 Source:   watoday.com.au

Move over Migaloo - there's a new white whale in town

  Move over Migaloo - there's a new white whale in town Australia’s most well-known humpback whale – Migaloo – may need to move aside because there’s a new kid in town. What looks to be a rare white whale calf and its mother have been spotted from the air by an eagle-eyed paraglider flying high above Lennox Head in northern New South Wales.The spectacular vision captured the marine creatures frolicking in the water side-by-side. The unusual sighting comes after Migaloo has captivated seasoned and amateur whale watchers along the east coast for decades.

The recent, tragic mass stranding of hundreds of pilot whales in New Zealand has rekindled debate as to the mystery behind what causes mass cetacean beachings. An etching from 1577 shows three beached Sperm Whales , highlighting the long history of whales beaching themselves.

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The fossil - a yellowing lump of bone© Melbourne Museum The fossil - a yellowing lump of bone For millions of years, a mysterious creature has flocked to the waters off the coast of Melbourne.

The pygmy right whale is large, but shy and rarely photographed. We can only guess what it eats, where it breeds and what it is doing out there in the deep blue.

It turns out an important clue has been sitting, dusty and unexamined, in Museums Victoria's vast archives for more than 60 years.

As a child, Erich Fitzgerald wanted to hunt dinosaur bones. Unfortunately, there isn't much demand for paleontologists. “It’s easier to become an astronaut,” says Dr Fitzgerald.

Whale entangled in Sydney Harbour cut free during dramatic rescue operation

  Whale entangled in Sydney Harbour cut free during dramatic rescue operation The humpback whale, part of a pod of whales travelling through the harbour, was spotted north of Sydney Harbour on Tuesday afternoon dragging a buoy behind it. It was later confirmed that the whale was entangled in 100m of rope and a number of buoys. National Parks and Marine Rescue were called after a fisherman spotted the animal near Bundeena in Sydney's south.As of 2:00pm, the whale was just north of Sydney Heads. Authorities managed to free the whale about 2.20pm after working on the rescue for about an hour.

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Preventative measures such as making cuts in the animal can help the gas to escape and are common. 2. A 15-meter southern right whale swimming near a group of people at Sydney's Bondi Beach knocked a surfer out cold with the slap of its tail. The whale was swimming near a group of surfers

As far as he could tell, Australia has never had a whale-fossil scientist. So he decided to become the first.

Palaeontologist Dr Erich Fitzgerald holding the fossilised ear bone.© Melbourne Museum Palaeontologist Dr Erich Fitzgerald holding the fossilised ear bone. Last year, he began sifting through boxes containing items collected from Beaumaris beach in the 1950s by renowned palaeontologist George Baxter Pritchard.

“If you have a family portrait of baleen whales, the pygmy is the bizarre weirdo relative that everyone has heard of but no one really knows much about their background – and no one is comfortable asking,” Dr Fitzgerald says.

Among the shells, sand and rock, there was a yellowing lump of bone. "That’s interesting," he thought, turning it over in his hands. It looked a bit like the ear bone of a blue whale. "And then I put it back in the box, and closed the drawer."

Rescuers work tirelessly for four hours to free 25-tonne distressed humpback whale after it became tangled in a 100-metre rope

  Rescuers work tirelessly for four hours to free 25-tonne distressed humpback whale after it became tangled in a 100-metre rope Whale watchers first spotted the struggling mammal near La Perouse, south of Sydney, and called authorities. Officers from the National Parks and Wildlife Services and the Office of Environment and Heritage quickly intervened when the whale neared the entrance of the city's harbour. © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Rescuers spent four hours trying to free a 25-tonne whale after its tail became tangled in a rope on Tuesday Peter Bergman, a rescuer with National Parks and Wildlife services told 7 News that although the whale was moving, it was at a slower pace than it would have liked.

Accessibility Help . BBC iD. Notifications. ' Mystery creature' seen crossing street. Sea creature remains baffle beach goers. Dr Forman, a bioscience specialist, said: "Its jaw line suggests it is like a cetacean whale or a dolphin."

The humpback whale captured 'tail-sailing' remains a mystery as researchers say the behavior is 'The tail's up, it's wet and the wind's blowing across it,' which helps cool the whale 's skin, according to Lyman. Madison Beer looks ready for the Miami heat as she models hot pink bikini on the beach .

And that would have been that.

One of the few existing photos of a pygmy right whale.© Robert Pitman via Museums Victoria One of the few existing photos of a pygmy right whale. Dr Fitzgerald and his colleague, Felix Marx, spent much of 2017 working on pygmy whales. There wasn’t much to work with – only five fossils existed in the world – leaving the pair a little frustrated.

One day, they were rummaging through the museum’s archives when Dr Fitzgerald came across Pritchard’s box again.

“I picked up the bone, and said: ‘Huh. Does that remind you of anything?'"

“Oh,” said Dr Marx. “That’s it!”

“Oh, yeah,” said Dr Fitzgerald."I’ve known about that for years.''

Dr Marx stared at him wide-eyed.

“Why didn’t you mention this before?”

On closer inspection, the fossil turned out to be the ear bone of a pygmy right whale. The pair dated it at 6 million years old, making it the oldest known evidence of the species' existence. Remarkably, it is almost identical to ear bones in modern pygmy whales.

Ancient pygmy right whale fossil identified 60 years after being found on Melbourne beach

  Ancient pygmy right whale fossil identified 60 years after being found on Melbourne beach A seemingly unremarkable fossil first collected on a Melbourne beach more than 60 years ago and kept in storage turns out to be the oldest known evidence of the rare pygmy right whale. The ancient bone was found in the bayside suburb of Beaumaris by Museums Victoria honorary palaeontologist George Baxter Pritchard in the first half of last century, and placed in one of the museum's collections.But only recently did palaeontologist Dr Erich Fitzgerald decide to take a closer look at the object. Credit Cards Are Now Offering 0% Interest Until 2020 Find out more on Finder Sponsored by Finder.com.

The rotting remains of a mystery creature which looks half dolphin, half whale have washed up on an African beach . Researchers went back and forth debating whether it was a whale or a dolphin. Alleged accomplice will stand trial accused of helping a

Accessibility Help . A mysterious creature has washed up on Rhossili beach on Gower with experts so far unable to confirm its identity. It has a 5ft (1.52m) skeleton with a long head and large jaw line and some believe it is a cetacean, such as a whale , dolphin or porpoise.

Caperea marginata, the pygmy right whale, is the smallest of the whales at six metres long and about 1000 kilograms.

Pygmy right whales, as far as we know, live exclusively between the southern coasts of Australia and the Antarctic. It is thought they dive through shallow water, using the unique mesh in their mouths to filter krill out of the seawater. They also have excellent eyesight for a whale.

“Whatever the living pygmy whales are doing out there, they have probably been doing similar things off Australia’s shores for 6 million years. That’s a pretty profound idea," says Dr Fitzgerald.

This find, says Dr Fitzgerald, “feels like the start”. It suggests Beaumaris might be a rich untapped source of important fossils.

That is where Dr Fitzgerald headed now. “The great adventure of discovery for this story, it’s just beginning,” he says.

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