UNCW team discovers new whale species

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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.

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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.