Until recently the critically endangered Rice’s whale were classified as a subspecies of Bryde’s whale. NOAA Scientists have determined that a critically endangered group of whales in the Gulf of Mexico is actually a new species. The small group of whales were previously classified as a subspecies of Bryde’s whale, but a paper published in Marine Mammal Science last month analyzed their DNA and skeletal shape to reveal a different story. The discovery highlights the importance of conserving this population, since around 33 remain. "A very exciting paper!" Lori Schwacke, a chief scientist for conservation medicine at the National Marine Mammal Foundation, told The Associated Press . (Schwacke was not involved with the paper.) "It’s such a small population in the Gulf of Mexico that marine scientists and managers were already focused on conservation efforts for them, particularly after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill . But now confirming that these whales are indeed a previously unknown species really raises those stakes." Scientists first determined that the whales were living in the Gulf of Mexico year-round in the 1990s, NPR reported . At the time, scientists identified them as a species of Bryde’s whales, but there were signs that indicated […]

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