Thursday, November 10, 2016

A rare sighting of a deep sea shark with sperm whales

Today we had our famous resident male sperm whale who we call "Mr Liable" around again, along the west coast of São Miguel Island. During the morning he was going on long dives, but in the afternoon we managed to catch up with him. His behaviour was a bit unusual as he kept going on shallow dives and then suddenly started travelling quickly offshore. We soon realised why, as there was a female sperm whale out there who he joined up with. Between the two sperm whales we saw a small head coming out of the water, which we thought was a baby sperm whale. Only later from our photos we could see it was a bluntnose sixgill shark (Hexanchus griseus). It was a very rare sighting as this is a very deep water species of shark. Although we were in an area of very deep water where sperm whales typically feed, it is very unusual to see a sixgill shark at the surface, especially poking its head out of the water. We are not sure if the female sperm whale had brought the shark up to the surface from a feeding dive, but we didn't see the two sperm whales trying to attack it at the surface. It almost seemed to be swimming with the sperm whales, just like a whale calf would. In the morning we also encountered a small group of bottlenose dolphins, so it was a really great day to be out on the ocean.


Photos from today:



The dorsal fin of the male sperm whale, with the head of the blunt sixgill shark behind (notice the green eye)




The two sperm whales - the female is in the foreground, and the much bigger male "Mr Liable" is in the background

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