Sei whale spotted off Scotland21/07/2011 14:52:18 Mystery sighting intrigues international Scientists
July 2011. Aerial photos taken by a Scottish paramedic of a large whale between Islay and Gigha off the west coast of Scotland have intrigued international scientists on both sides of the Atlantic. On balance they believe the sighting is most likely to be of a very rare Sei whale (Balaenoptera borealis).
Unable to identify the animal himself, Danny contacted Sea Watch whose Research Director Dr Peter Evans was also puzzled by his description and the only picture of it from above the surface. He sought independent views from two other experts in species identification, both from the US - Dr Phil Clapham, co-author of Sea Mammals of the World, published in 2002, and Dr Tom Jefferson, co-author of another identification guide Marine Mammals of the World, published in 2008.
Danny said: "There is always excitement on board when the team spots a school of dolphins or other marine animals. This time I was lucky, there were no patients on board and I had a camera to hand and was able to get some shots. When I got home I looked at the pictures and my first impression was a humpback because I thought the pectoral fins were white but due to its body shape and broad tail, I then thought it looked more like a fin whale which is when I contacted Sea Watch."
Dr Evans said: "This was a very important sighting and the picture has proved vital. We ruled out humpback whale because of the slim body shape and smooth back but I didn't understand how its pectoral fins could be white until Tom mentioned that from above these can appear very light. We then considered whether it could have been a fin whale (its large size - 20 metres or more ruled out Minke whale), which would itself have been unusual for the waters, but the picture showed that the dorsal fin curved backwards and was relatively large, two features that fit Sei whales but not fin whales. The three of us independently concluded it was most likely to be a Sei whale."
8 sightings in 50 years
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