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Rare Bowhead Whale Seen in Cape Cod Bay

Researchers at the Center for Coastal Studies (CCS) have observed a bowhead whale (Balaena mysticetus) in Cape Cod Bay, Massachusetts. This is only the second time in recorded history that a bowhead has been seen so far south in the North Atlantic; the first time was in 2012, when CCS scientists spotted a bowhead off the Outer Beach in Orleans. The bowhead was spotted by scientists from the CenterÕs Right Whale Research Program during an aerial survey on April 9, 2014. It was identified by the CenterÕs right whale identification specialist and flight coordinator Corey Accardo, who has worked extensively with both bowhead and right whales. The bowhead was feeding with right whales when it was photographed. Like the right whale, the bowhead are slow-moving filter feeders that subsist largely on zooplankton such as the copepods that are abundant in Cape Cod Bay at this time of year. (Center for Coastal Studies under NOAA permit 14603)
Researchers at the Center for Coastal Studies (CCS) have observed a bowhead whale in Cape Cod Bay. This is only the second time in recorded history that a bowhead has been seen so far south in the North Atlantic.Center for Coastal Studies

A rare bowhead whale was first spotted two years ago in Cape Cod Bay, and that very same whale has returned to those waters.

Bowhead whales normally spend their whole lives in polar regions, unlike other baleen whales that tend to migrate out of colder Arctic waters to eat and reproduce, United Press International reports.

“This is yet another remarkable sighting in what has been a remarkable several years in our studies of Cape Cod Bay,” said Dr. Charles “Stormy” Mayo, the director of the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies Right Whale Habitat Studies program, in a statement.

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Corey Accardo, also with the Right Whale Habitat Studies program, said feeding is especially good at the moment, WBZ-TV reports.

"This time of year is when we get a large influx of zoo plankton in Cape Cod Bay and along with that, we get a lot of Right Whales coming to feed in this area," Accardo said.

So how did researchers know this was the same whale spotted in 2012?

When spotted – first in Cape Cod Bay and then a few days later near Race Point – researchers were able to determine it was a bowhead whale when reviewing photographs, The Boston Globe reports.

Researchers also were able to match the bowhead's scars - one, a dot near its blowhole and another shaped like a crescent moon on its body - with scars that had been noted on the bowhead seen in 2012, and enabling them to say that it was the same animal.

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