Arabian Sea Humpback Whales Genetically Unique For 70,000 Years

Despite its long migration patterns, Arabian Sea humpback wales remain separate.

In the most recent edition of the online journal PLOS ONE, scientists from the the Environment Society of Oman, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), and  the American Museum of Natural History have found that humpback whales living in the Arabian Sea are the most genetically distinct of all whales.

Arabian Sea Humpback Whales Genetically Unique For 70,000 Years

The findings are quite surprising given the migration patterns of the songful mammal that often takes it over 3,500 miles from feeding spots in polar regions to breeding locations in warmer waters according to the report.

Arabian Sea Humpback Whales: Truly unique

“The epic seasonal migrations of humpbacks elsewhere are well known, so this small, non-migratory population presents a wonderful and intriguing enigma,” study co-author Tim Collins. “They also beg many questions: how and why did the population originate, how does it persist, and how do their behaviors differ from other humpback whales?”

The researches involved in the study took tissue samples from 47 different whales and analyzed their mitochondrial and nuclear DNA. Once the results were assessed they were compared to the DNA of humpbacks found in the Southern Hemisphere and North Pacific.

“We have invested lots of energy working to clarify the population structure of several large whale species around the world,” said Dr. Howard Rosenbaum, lead author of the study. “The levels of genetic differences for Arabian Sea humpback whales are particularly striking; they are the world’s most distinct population of humpback whales and might even shed some light on the environmental factors that shape cetacean populations,” wrote Rosenbaum who also holds the post of Director of WCS’s Ocean Giants Program.

Most endangered whale species

“The Arabian Sea humpback whales are the world’s most isolated population of this species and definitely the most endangered,” said Rosenbaum,. “The known and growing risks to this unique population include ship strikes and fishing net entanglement, threats that could be devastating for this diminished population; we need to see increased regional efforts to provide better protection for these whales.”

The authors of the report are hoping that their work will bring attention to the most unique whale in the world in order to protect it from extinction that could occur before the end of the century.

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