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Whale wanted: alive.

ALASKA In the summer of 2014, Phillip Morin didn't expect a dead whale on a beach in St. George, Alaska, to propel him on an adventure to describe a new species. But that's exactly what happened after a local teacher told him about it.

Morin, a molecular geneticist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Southwest Fisheries Science Center, initially thought the carcass was a Baird's beaked whale, which are fairly common in the area and sometimes wash in, dead, with the tide.

But a few details about the carcass, such as the colouration and position of the dorsal fin, didn't match any known description of a Baird's beaked whale.

Morin conducted research around the globe to determine what species the whale was, including examining more than 50 DNA samples from NOAA databanks. He even examined a skeleton hanging in a high school gymnasium and collected bone dust from skeletons at the Smithsonian and in Los Angeles.

Months earlier, Japanese research used whaler sightings of black whales called karasu ("ravens") to describe a potential new whale species allegedly seen since the 1940s - whales which match the description of the St. George's carcass.

In August of this year, Morin and his team published a study in Marine Mammal Science with the full details of the new species and their work to describe it.

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Title Annotation:Research Digest
Author:Parkinson, Jack
Publication:Alternatives Journal
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:1U9AK
Date:Sep 22, 2016
Words:225
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