Photo/IllutrationAn image of a “kurotsuchikujira,” or black Baird’s beaked whale (Provided by the National Museum of Nature and Science)

  • Photo/Illustraion

Black whales called “karasu,” or crows, by local Hokkaido whalers have turned out to be a new species.

The finding was announced Aug. 30 in the British science magazine Scientific Reports by a group of researchers from the National Museum of Nature and Science, Hokkaido University and other organizations.

The team named the species “kurotsuchikujira” (black Baird’s beaked whale).

The species, which has been known as karasu and “kuro-tsuchi," is one of the genus Berardius.

The team of researchers analyzed six whales that were washed ashore in Hokkaido by comparing them with specimens of the same genus from countries including the United States, Britain and Sweden.

It found that the bodies of the karasu were up to 6.9 meters long while those of others from the same taxonomic genus were up to 12 meters. The karasu's beaks were also proportionately shorter.

DNA analysis revealed major differences between karasu and the other whales, leading the team to conclude karasu were a new species.

As the species is the smallest among Berardius, the team assigned it the academic name Berardius minimus. Minimus means “smallest” in Latin.