Thursday 22 May 2014

Humpback whale subspecies revealed

Populations of humpback whales in the North Pacific, North Atlantic and Southern Hemisphere oceans are much more distinct from each other than previously thought and should be recognised as separate subspecies, a new genetic study shows.

Findings by the team, led by scientists from the British Antarctic Survey and Oregon State University, show that humpback whales are on independent evolutionary trajectories.

Known for their amazing acrobatics, humpback whales annually undertake the longest migration of any mammal between their winter breeding grounds and summer feeding grounds. Although they travel vast distances, it appears their populations do not cross paths. Understanding how connected these populations are has important implications for the recovery of these charismatic animals that were once devastated by hunting.

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