A 40-foot-long gray whale became the first animal of its species to swim over 26,876 kilometers (16,700 miles), the longest distance on record in their history. According to a study published Wednesday in Biology Letters, a group of scientists from the University of Durham and Sea Search Research and Conservation NPC, shows how they found a gray whale off the coast of Namibia which they say has roamed half of the globe to get there.
The gray whale traced by scientists is native to the North Pacific region. It was first noticed away from home in 2013, when fishermen reported its presence in Walvis Bay off the coast of Namibia. It was a very unusual sight since the gray whales had not been seen in the area. The report caught the attention of oceanographers and zoologists, which led to the training of researchers to learn more about the whale.
The team of researchers took a ship to obtain a small tissue sample of the 40-foot whale. Using this sample, Tess Gridley and Simon H. Elwen of Sea Search Research and Conservation teamed up with evolutionary biologist from Durham University Fatih Sarigol and A. Rus Hoelzel from the Department of Biosciences. Together, the team performed DNA analysis of whale genomes along with other gray whale genomes stored at the US National Center for Biotechnology Information.
Their analysis showed that the gray whale swimming around the Namibian coast was directly linked to an endangered western population of gray whales that normally live in the North Pacific. According to data, it is believed that there are only 200 western gray whales left in the world. Therefore, sightings of this gray whale are quite rare.
After confirming its origins, scientists then traced its possible route so far from its usual location. The study suggests that the male cetacean could have taken a Canadian route through the Northwest Passage, or that it could have swam from the southern route around South America or even across the Indian Ocean. Whichever route you take, the gray whale has clearly traveled half the planet. This unusual long-distance journey by the gray whale also suggests how warming oceans are forcing some marine animals to search for a better biosphere for their survival.
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