Friday 2 May 2014

Clues to why whales are not recovering in numbers in the Antarctic

Researchers studying the DNA in bones of whales killed by early 20th century whale hunters in the Southern Hemisphere, have been piecing together more information about the species that thrived in those oceans in those days.

The study, led by Angela Sremba, a doctoral student in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at Oregon State University, represents the most comprehensive investigation ever made of the historic genetic diversity in whales from around the Antarctic region prior to commercial whaling. The researchers attempted to extract DNA from 281 whale bones and were successful in 82 per cent of cases.

Of the 231 samples they identified, the majority (158) were humpback whales. They also documented 51 fin whales, 18 blue whales, two sei whales, and one southern right whale. One of the bones turned out to be from an elephant seal.

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