The Bryde’s whale species was first described (that is, officially given a name) in the 19th century. In 2021, the Bryde’s whales that live in the Gulf of Mexico were recognized as a separate species. Here’s a timeline of how it happened:
Eden’s whale (Balaenoptera edeni) is described based on a small baleen whale that stranded in Myanmar. The name recognizes the Honorable Ashley Eden, a chief commissioner of British Burma (now Myanmar), who helped save the first specimen for science.
Bryde’s whale (Balaenoptera brydei) is described from baleen whales caught by whalers working in South Africa. Bryde’s whales are named for Johan Bryde, a Norwegian who built the first whaling stations in South Africa in the early 20th century.
Eden’s whales and Bryde’s whales are grouped together as a single species (Balaenoptera edeni) with the English common name of Bryde’s whales. Years of debate follow as to whether the two species should remain the same or separate.
The skull of a Bryde’s-like whale was found on the coast of Louisiana. The skull was archived at the Louisiana State University Museum of Natural Science.
Dale W. Rice first published evidence that Bryde’s whales are present in the Gulf of Mexico.
NOAA’s Southeast Fisheries Science Center scientists determine that the Bryde’s whales in the Gulf of Mexico are year-round residents.
Japanese scientists describe a separate baleen whale species, Omura's whale (Balaenoptera omurai), based on morphology of the skull and genetic analysis of mitochondrial DNA. This species is closely related to Bryde’s whales. Hideo Omura was a researcher at the Whales Research Institute in Tokyo, Japan.
NOAA’s Southeast Fisheries Science Center scientists describe an evolutionarily distinct lineage of Bryde’s whales in the Gulf of Mexico based on genetic analysis of mitochondrial DNA. This group of whales became known as the Gulf of Mexico Bryde’s whale.
A Bryde's-like whale strands on the Gulf coast of Florida and is genetically confirmed to be a Gulf of Mexico Bryde’s whale. Scientists performed a necropsy (non-human autopsy) and collected the entire specimen, including the intact skull. This response would not have been possible without the help of our partners including:
- Everglades National Park Service
- Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
- Mote Marine Laboratory Stranding Investigations Program
- Sarasota Dolphin Research Project
- Marine Animal Rescue Society
- University of Miami, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science
- Dolphins Plus
- Clearwater Marine Aquarium
We also partnered with the Fort DeSoto State Park, Bonehenge Whale Center and Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History’s marine mammal collection to preserve it for research and future reference.
A formal scientific description of the Bryde’s-like whales in the Gulf of Mexico as Rice’s whale (B. ricei) is published. Morphological features in the skull and a high degree of genetic divergence distinguish them from all other Bryde’s-like whale species and subspecies. The skull of the whale from Florida was also compared to the skull of a juvenile Bryde’s-like whale that stranded in 2003 in North Carolina, provided by researchers at University of North Carolina Wilmington. The morphological comparisons were found to be consistent. A genetic analysis of the skull found on the coast of Louisiana in 1954 and the whale from North Carolina confirmed them to be Rice’s whales. Rice’s whale is named in honor of Dale W. Rice.