July 2016 Statistics Report

On the map above, we can see the spatial distribution of our sightings during the month of July along the South coast of São Miguel 🙂

[NOTE: To see the interactive map please visit http://www.monicet.net/en/maps]

We sighted 14 different species of Cetaceans and 1 species of marine turtles!!

Of these, three species were Baleen Whales: Fin whales (Bp), Northern minke whales (Ba) and Sei whales (Bb);

Two were Toothed whales: Sperm whales (Pm) and Blainville’s beaked whales (Mb);

Eight species were Dolphins: Bottlenose dolphins (Tt), Risso’s dolphins (Gg), Striped dolphins (Sc), Short-finned pilot whales (Gma), Common dolphins (Dd), Killer whales (Oo), False killer whales (Pc) and Atlantic Spotted dolphins (Sf);

And, finally, one species of turtle: Loggerhead turtle (Cc).

Sighted species - July

Sighted species – July

The highlights of the month were the sightings of two very special species: the Orcas (Killer Whales) and the Blainville’s beaked whales!!

Orcas are rare to sight in the Azores, but we can be sighted throughout the whole year. They have been sighted in February, even August. But this year it was in July! We sighted a group of about 15 or so individuals, with females and calves, and 3 males as well.

Orcas can reach 8 to 9 meters in length, males being bigger than females. Other very important and distinctive characteristic of this specie is the tall dorsal fin of the males. As you can see on the picture below:

Females can live up to 90 years old, males have a smaller life expectancy of about 50 years.

They have female dominated hierarchies and family bonds are long lasting for several generations.

There are several types of orcas, here we have at least 2 types: the ones that feed on marine mammals, like baleen whales, and the ones that feed on fish.  For a better idea please take a look at the following link by NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration): https://swfsc.noaa.gov/uploadedImages/Divisions/PRD/Programs/Ecology/Killer%20Whale%20Poster%20-%20final.jpg?n=1491

For sure one of the most amazing and rare sightings of the season!

This week we has another of one of the most amazing sightings of the season.. So far!

We got a “show” from a group of 3 female Blainville’s Beaked Whales. Usually this species is very shy, like all Beaked Whales. But this day they were wuite comfortable with being around of the boat.

Blainville's beaked whale / Mesoplodon densirostris

Blainville’s beaked whale / Mesoplodon densirostris

Blainville’s Beaked Whales can reach 4 to 5 meters in length and weight 800 to 1000 kg. They are deep divers. Their dives can reach a 1000 meters in depth. They feed mainly on cephalopods and fish.

In this sighting we know they were females for a very specific reason: only males have teeth, actually tusks, that protrude from the sides of the lower jaw which is very prominent and overrides the rostrum!

Females have teeth hidden under the gum tissue.

As you can see in the picture down bellow, this individual doesn’t have tusks.

Blainville's beaked whale / Mesoplodon densirostris

Blainville’s beaked whale / Mesoplodon densirostris

Curious fact: Blainville’s Beaked Whales go silent and don’t communite above 175 meters. Maybe to avoid detection from predators!

In conclusion a pretty amazing month! Lets see how August goes! 😀

Stay tuned for more updates on our tours!

 

 

 

 

 

Catarina Fonseca

About Catarina Fonseca

Catarina is Marine Biologist and was Main Guide and Technical & Scientific Director at TERRA AZUL from 2014 to 2017. She is dedicated, knowledgeable and a passionate friend to animals and humans. We hope she can come back soon to wildlife experiences with us. , and everyday works on ensuring the highest educational and conservation standards during spractice. She also contributes collecting Data collection for MONICET – The Azores Islands Cetaceans Research & Conservation long-term monitoring project.

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