New species of Orca found off South American coast
The "Type D" killer whales, which may be dubbed the sub-Antarctic Orcas, is a newly discovered species of Orcas found in the waters off the coast of Chile.
Photojournalist and Wildlife Specialist for ABC News, and Owner/Principal Creative Baby Wild Films, Michael Harris says they are very different from their northern cousins.
"It's a loose order, it's got more of a bulbous head, the eye patches are really small. We're used to looking at Orcas with these big white eye patches, they have really little tiny eye patches, and very pointy, almost shark like dorsal fins. Very unique looking animals"
He adds that the Type D's are much smaller than the Residential, Transient, and Offshore killer whales.
Harris, says a lot is still unknown about these mysterious mammals.
"This is the first time they've ever gotten video of them... The only evidence that they've had of them from before was from mass stranding, from stranding, from dead animals. But now they've been able to, not only that, but get a biopsy of a live animal. So they're going to do some studies and we're going to learn a lot more about this population"
Harris says all the separate groups of Orcas should be classified as different species. Since 1758, all killer whales were classified as the same species, Orcinus Orca, based off a taxonomy performed by a botanist.
Harris says when he approached the US District Court with the group asking to add the Southern Resident Orcas to the endangered species list, they looked at the fact that no proper research had been done in over 200 years, and ordered the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to go back to the drawing board, and the Southern Residents were added to the list. He believes that the discovery of the Type D's will act as the catalyst to make that change worldwide, and have all the types of Orca listed as individual species.
He adds that it's interesting to see that off the coast of Chile, the last place on the planet to be habited by humans, they can still find the most widely distributed marine mammal, the Orca.