UNCW team discovers new whale species

This juvenile whale washed up at Carolina Beach in March 2003. The whale, which starved after becoming entangled in fishing gear, has been identified as a member of a newly discovered subspecies, Rice's Whale. The UNCW Marine Mammal Stranding Team, including Bill McLellan and Ann Pabst, performed the necropsy and collected a DNA sample that NOAA researchers used to identify the whale. (Photo: UNCW)

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — UNCW’s Marine Mammal Stranding Team has just played a role in discovering a new species of whale.

When a whale washed up at Carolina Beach in 2003, the team noticed that the whale appeared to be unlike any they’d seen before.

- Advertisement -

It turns out it was.

17 years later, the sub-adult male was confirmed to be a member of a previously undiscovered species of baleen whales that lives in the northeastern Gulf of Mexico.

In January 2021, four NOAA researchers published a paper identifying the tentatively named Rice’s Whale as a separate species.