Taken from the newsletter Portrait de baleines, September 6, 2012
The deformed silhouette of Néo is unmistakable. Although he resembles Pascolio, he can be recognized by his swimming style (among other things, Pascolio almost always shows its tail when diving, whereas Néo never does), and by the several black spots on his right flank. Also remarkable is the difference in their colouration, which gives away their age difference: Pascolio is a white adult, while Néo is still grayish, meaning he’s a juvenile. Observers stationed at the lookouts at Pointe-Noire or Baie Sainte-Marguerite have the chance to spot him several times per season, sometimes alone, sometimes in different types of groups, i.e. females with young or juvenile males.
The GREMM research crew’s first encounter with Néo in 2005 came as a surprise: how was it that such a deformed beluga had never been photographed before? At that time he was a juvenile, and researchers learned through a biopsy that he was a male. However, at a certain age males leave the community of females into which they were born. Therefore Néo was perhaps born in the upriver community, which is less well documented by researchers. What will he do as he approaches adulthood? Will he establish strong bonds with other males, as is usually the case for adult males who form networks, clans and even small stable groups of companions? Will his physical handicap be an impediment to this socialization? A story to be followed!
Several “deformed” belugas frequent the waters of the St. Lawrence and the Saguenay. Pascolio, Scolio, Néo and others are easily recognizable, but photos are often necessary to confirm an identification made in the field. The GREMM catalogue contains several hundred individuals, over 250 of which are well known.