VOTE FOR THE BEST OF ORLANDO® 2021 NOW THROUGH AUG. 1!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

New whale found in Florida YAY; already world's most endangered BOO

Posted By on Tue, Oct 7, 2014 at 3:10 PM

click to enlarge This is a Bryde's whale, though not one of the newly discovered pod. They eat "planktonic crustaceans," not seagulls. (photo via
  • This is a Bryde's whale, though not one of the newly discovered pod. They eat "planktonic crustaceans," not seagulls. (photo via

This is a Bryde's whale, though not one of the newly discovered pod. They eat "planktonic crustaceans," not seagulls. (photo via WDC)

Brought to our attention by TakePart.com this morning (what, you don't start your day with coffee and Facebook wildlife news?) was the fact that a brand-new, genetically distinct group of whales has been discovered off the coast of the Florida Panhandle. The majestic cetaceans are part of the Bryde's whale family, and may even be a genetically distinct species.

The scientific journal Endangered Species Research published a paper by Patricia E. Rosel and Lynsey A. Wilcox on the newly discovered pod of whales that states, "The level of [genetic] divergence suggests a unique evolutionary trajectory worthy of its own taxonomic standing."

Which is great!

But (sad trombone) the exact spot in the Gulf of Mexico where this group of about 50 Bryde's whales live is possibly the most dangerous place they could be in. Adjacent to the underwater canyon where the Deepwater Horizon oil spill happened in 2010, their underwater canyon home is surrounded by newly granted oil and gas drilling leases and subject to a constant barrage of airgun fire, as noted by National Resources Defense Council blogger Michael Jasny: "[The whales] have been struck by ships making their way to and from the region’s major ports. And new oil and gas leases are slated for the eastern Gulf, encroaching further on their habitat and adding to the risk of future spills." Since there are only about 50 of them, losing even one would be critical. (Rosel and Wilcox: "The small population size and markedly low genetic diversity raise conservation concern for this unique group of whales.")

Bryde's (pronounced "broodus") whales are about 40 feet long, and are part of the baleen whale suborder, meaning they feed on small fish, krill and plankton by filtering them through plates attached to their upper jaw, instead of chomping them with teeth. (Those nifty stripey throat pleats allow their mouths to balloon outward as they take in seawater during this process.)

"The Gulf of Mexico is the most heavily prospected body of water in the world," Jasny writes. The NRDC has petitioned to get the Gulf of Mexico Bryde's whales listed as an endangered species, which would grant the whale family certain protections under the Endangered Species Act. It would be pretty great if we didn't manage to kill off these whales so soon after discovering them.

 

Tags: , ,

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Orlando Weekly. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Orlando Weekly, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at feedback@orlandoweekly.com.

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club for as little as $5 a month.

Newsletters

Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Read the Digital Print Issue

June 16, 2021

Calendar

© 2021 Orlando Weekly

Website powered by Foundation