28.05.2018 – Tropical tourist
After searching long and hard for animals out on the Atlantic this morning, our spotter was able to provide us with a truly sensational sighting. A large Tropical whale (Balaenoptera edeni) and her calf took a short break from their eastward journey to interact with our traditional boat. The calf was extremely curious and swam around our boat several times, occasionally barrel rolling beneath the ocean surface.
This cetacean species is a warm-water lover and only migrates within the tropical and subtropical latitudes of our planets oceans and is therefore only encountered around the Portuguese archipelago during the summer months. The Tropical whale is a moderately-sized member of the rorqual family the Balaenopteridae, a baleen whale family that also includes the interactive Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) and the enormous Blue Whale (B.musculus). Tropical whales enjoy a diet that includes schooling fish and zooplankton and, like its taxonomic cousins, uses its large baleen plates to filter its prey out of the water column. An array of ventral pleats (40-70 to be precise) allow its throat to expand when it swallows large amounts of water as it lunges on its flank in pursuit of its prey. The species can be easily mistaken for another frequently encountered rorqual here in Madeira, the Sei Whale (Balaenoptera borealis) and is best distinguished through its most characteristic feature; the three rostral ridges on its head.
This delightful morning sighting marked the first tropical whale sighting of the year and was closely followed by yet another encounter with a different individual during the afternoon tour. It seems summer has finally arrived here in Madeira..
By Paula Thake
Sightings of the day
10:00 Tropical whale
14:30 Tropical whale