List of Marine Mammal Species and Subspecies Update Includes New Species and Subspecies

The Committee completed its annual review of the SMM list of accepted marine mammal species and subspecies in May 2020. A new species has been added to the list — Sato’s beaked whale, Berardius minimus Yamada, Kitamura and Matsuishi, 2019. This species is found in the North Pacific Ocean. It is smaller and darker in coloration than Baird’s beaked whale, B. bairdii, a closely related species of Berardius that is also found in the North Pacific. In addition to the morphological differences, mitochondrial DNA data also separate Sato’s beaked whale from the other beaked whale species.

The Committee has also recognized the North Pacific population of fin whales as a separate subspecies, Balaenoptera physalus velifera Cope in Scammon, 1869. Fin whales in the North Pacific have historically been included in the broadly distributed Northern Hemisphere subspecies B. p. physalus. A new genetic study examining both mitochondrial and nuclear DNA found that North Pacific fin whales are diagnosably different from those in the North Atlantic and the Southern Hemisphere, and are likely on a separate evolutionary trajectory.  The subspecies name velifera is Latin for sail-bearing and may refer to the large falcate dorsal fin.

The publications describing these new taxa are:

Archer FI, Robert L. Brownell J, Hancock-Hanser B, Morin P, Robertson K, Sherman K, Calambokidis J, R JU, Rosel P, Mizroch S, Panigada S, Taylor B (2019) Subspecies of fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus Linnaeus, 1758): Taxonomic implications of genetics. J Mammal 100:1653–1670

Yamada TK, Kitamura S, Abe S, Tajima Y, Matsuda A, Mead JG, Matsuishi TF (2019) Description of a new species of beaked whale (Berardius) found in the North Pacific. Scientific Reports 9:1-14