The Naming of Omura’s Whale

Not much is known about Omura’s Whale (Balaenoptera omurai). It was first described by three Japanese scientists, Shiro Wada, Masayuki Oishi, and Tadasu K. Yamada, in 2003 (read their whole article here) and is the second smallest baleen whale, after the Minke, thought to grow to between 9.6 and 11.5 m long (31.5 to 37.7 feet), with females being slightly larger than males. It’s found in the Indo-Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans, between 35° N and 35° S, though most sightings occur in tropical waters. The common and species name were both given to the whale by Wada, Oishi, and Yamada when they described the species in 2003. They named the whale in honour of Japanese cetologist Hideo Omura.

Hideo Omura was born February 3, 1906 and passed away January 13, 1993. He graduated from the Department of Fisheries at Tokyo Imperial University in 1929 and went on to serve as the director of the Institute of Cetacean Research, Japan Whaling Association. As someone who does not speak Japanese and is limited by the algorithms of a mostly English Canadian search history I actually had a very hard time finding out much more about Omura but a search of his name in Google scholar does show he published proficiently in the field of marine biology. 

As for the Genus name, Balaenoptera, we’ve covered this before here at the Naming of Things… this term comes from the Latin “balaena” (whale) and Ancient Greek “pteron” (fin) so Balaenoptera omurai really is Omura’s whale with a fin.

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