Words by Laura González, marine biologist at Futurismo
Our Favourite Sperm Whale Family Keeps Growing!
In Futurismo we have been consistently collecting data about the cetaceans we see during our whale watching trips for more than 10 years. We count with a database of more than 14000 sightings of 22 different species of cetaceans, all of them sighted around São Miguel island, in the Azores. With all this information, we manage to study when and where cetaceans are, and also who are they. For the latter, the photos taken on our tours are a must. We identify each animal just looking at some special features, which can be tails or dorsal fins, or even spots on the body depending on the species. This technique is called photo-identification and it is widely used for cetacean research worldwide.
One of the most sighted species in our whale watching tours is the sperm whale. Sperm whales can be sighted year-round in the Azores, and actually, you can observe every single phase of their life in our waters! The Azores are a perfect paradise with good breeding and foraging conditions for them.
Over the years, we have collected a huge amount of information about sperm whales. We have managed to identify more than 400 different individuals around São Miguel, looking at their tails and dorsal fins. Some of them have been sighted once and again within the same group, with the same friends! If you want to learn more about our sperm whales, have a look at this scientific paper published last year with the data we collect in our tours (van der Linde & Eriksson, 2019).
With time, we learnt to easily recognize some of these frequently sighted sperm whales, and some of the most well know ones were with us in the last few weeks. Our famous “Red Group”, formed by several adult females and younger animals has been observed around this month! The easiest whale to recognize is “Orca”, an adult female sperm whale known to us since 2003, and who has been sighted over a hundred times since then. She is very easy to recognize because of her big white patch on the back (reminding us of the saddle patch of an orca). We have followed her story closely, and we know that she became a mother in 2014, and probably again in 2019! This month we observed her with a young sperm whale beside her, maybe her calf of last year? She was together with two other females, also well-known to us; one of them with a new baby on her side. It looks like this family of sperm whales is healthy! Hope they will still spend some more time around this Azorean paradise, and that we have new chances to see them again soon!
For more information on WCA Partner Futurismo, visit their website HERE.