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Rare Whale Spotted Near Scotland
The whale photo that touched off a flurry of excitement.
Credit: Danny Kerr.

A rare sei whale has been spotted near the western coast of Scotland, only the eighth time in 50 years the elusive whale species has been seen in the area.

Paramedic Danny Kerr photographed the lone whale from a low-flying aircraft, as he was on his way to pick up a patient, the BBC reported.

Kerr sent the image of the mysterious, slim-bodied whale to an expert at the marine charity Sea Watch, who then shared the image with two American researchers. All three agreed the solitary mammal was indeed a sei whale, an endangered whale species that lives in oceans around the globe, but is rarely seen in the region.

A sei whale, also photographed from an aircraft, but by U.S. researchers.
A sei whale, also photographed from an aircraft, but by U.S. researchers.
Credit: NOAA Fisheries.

The scientists attempting to identify the creature were initially puzzled by the whale's unusual white pectoral fins.

"We then considered whether it could have been a fin whale, which would itself have been unusual for the waters, but the picture showed that the dorsal fin curved backwards and was relatively large, two features that fit sei whale but not fin whale," Peter Evans, research director at Sea Watch, told the BBC.

Much about sei whales remains mysterious. The species was targeted during whaling's heyday, and tens of thousands of sei whales were killed.

Modern-day population numbers are hard to come by, but the most recent estimates put the global population around 30,000.