Meet the rare spectacled porpoise joining the Museum

20 September 2017

spectacled-porpoise-falklands-news

Little is known about the lives of spectacled porpoises. A rare find is allowing Museum experts to find out more.

Spectacled porpoises are seldom seen in the wild. Their seasonal movements remain a mystery.

Little research has been done on the species - but scientists at the Museum have a new opportunity to study them.

A complete specimen arrived at the Museum after it was found stranded at San Carlos in the Falkland Islands in January 2017.

Experts at Falklands Conservation identified the mammal and sent it to the Museum for further study.

The porpoise will be examined by mammal experts Richard Sabin and Louise Tomsett.

It will be the first time a complete spectacled porpoise is examined by experts in the UK, contributing to the global knowledge about this species, which so far is limited.

Porpoises in the Museum

This specimen joins two other spectacled porpoises in the Museum's world-leading cetacea research collection.

Both are skeletons acquired in the 1920s and 1930s.

Richard says, 'The exceptionally fresh and complete specimen received from the Falkland Islands has great scientific value, as the spectacled porpoise is one of the least known of all cetacean species.

'This examination will begin a process that will help uncover more about the anatomy, ecology, taxonomy and migrations of this species.

'We will be carrying out our work slowly and carefully over the coming months, and will no doubt collaborate with colleagues around the world to ensure all areas of research interest are addressed.'

All three spectacled porpoise specimens are part of the Museum's cetacea research collection of more than 4,000 specimens.

Louise says, 'It is important that the mammal collection continues to grow with the addition of specimens like this. One of the strengths of our collection is the presence of several examples of a species, illustrating the variety within that species, especially across its geographical range.

'Analysis of the specimens has the potential to unlock previously hidden information contained within them, both for the present and for unrealized future techniques in research.'