A new species of beaked whale, known as Deraniyagala's beaked whale, Mesoplodon hotaula, has been resurrected by scientists. It is the first marine mammal to be named by a Sri Lankan.
On 26 January 1963, a specimen 4.5m long, female beaked whale cast ashore at Ratmalana in a dying state. After examining the dead specimen's form and structure, Dr. P.E.P. Deraniyagala (Director of the Sri Lanka National Museum 1939-1963) described it to be a new species of beaked whale belonging to the genus Mesoplodon. A couple of years later it was synonymized with the Gingko-toothed beaked whale, M. ginkgodens. In 2012, scientists resurrected and proposed Deraniyagala's beaked whale as a new species, M. hotaula, or subspecies, M. ginkgodens hotaula. Based on scientific review, the genetic and morphological evidence has now been presented supporting the recognition of the previously synonymized species of Mesoplodon beaked whale in the tropical Indo-Pacific, known from at least seven specimens, as Mesoplodon hotaula.
Interestingly, Dr. Deraniayagala named the whale Mesoplodon hotaula. The specific name hotaula is derived from the Sinhala name 'hota ul talamaha' which translated in English is pointed beak whale or simply beaked whale. The skull of the holotype is in the Sri Lanka National Museum, Colombo registered as specimen No. 3 W.S.Z. This discovery brings the total number of Mesoplodon species to 15, making it, by far, the most speciose yet least known genus of cetaceans.