Scientists: New Zealand beaching proves rarest of whale species exists

The Associated Press

WELLINGTON, New Zealand - The spade-toothed beaked whale is so rare, nobody has seen one alive. But scientists are sure it exists.

Two skeletons were identified as belonging to the species after a five-metre whale and her calf beached themselves in New Zealand in 2010.

Scientists hope the discovery will provide insights into the species and into ocean ecosystems.

It was almost a missed opportunity, however, since conservation workers misidentified the carcasses as a much more common type of whale and buried them.

Researchers from New Zealand and the United States describe the discovery in a paper published Tuesday in the journal Current Biology.

They say it's the first time scientists are able to describe the world's "rarest and perhaps most enigmatic" marine mammal.