Back in January 2019, a NOAA expedition to the subantarctic waters off Chili potentially documented a new species of orca alive for the first time in the wild! Perfect timing considering that the news coincides with the launch of our 4ocean Orca Bracelet (or maybe it's just coincidence), but either way, we are super excited to hear the news.
Potentially the largest animal on earth yet to be described, the "Type D" orca has eluded study since it was first discovered in 1955 when twelve of them stranded on a beach in New Zealand. Fishermen told tales of strange-looking whales stealing their catch and rare sightings have occurred since then, but now new photo and video evidence from the expedition makes it pretty clear these orcas are unlike any others on the planet. They are shorter in length, with a much more rounded head, a more pointed dorsal fin, and a very small white eye patch giving them a very distinct look. It's also true these orcas live in some of the most inhospitable seas on the planet, so it's no wonder that it has taken this long to document them.
Researchers aboard the ship Australis we able to locate a pod of about 25 of these orcas after going to an area where fishermen had seen them recently. They waited at anchor for more than a week until the pod finally approached. The orcas hung around the boat for a couple of hours curiously checking out the ship and the hydrophone scientists had lowered into the water to capture any vocalization. No vocalization was heard, but they were able to get photos, video, and a DNA sample from one of the animals to send back to the lab to verify that these animals were a new species.
It's always exciting and inspiring to see what mysteries the ocean still has in store for us. That is why we do what we do every day here at 4ocean, cleaning the ocean and coastlines to help amazing creatures like this live in a more plastic-free environment. In addition, this month we have partnered with the Orca Conservancy to bring attention to the plight of the highly-endangered Southern Resident Orcas in the Pacific Northwest, USA. So, make sure to purchase your 4ocean Orca Bracelet to pull your pound of trash and help us support the great work they are doing on behalf of orcas around the world.