Hope for an alarmingly low number of gray whales in the western Pacific Ocean might rest with their cousins to the east, according to a Purdue University study of the animals’ genetic resources.
Andrew DeWoody, professor in the Department of Forestry and Natural Resources and the Department of Biological Sciences, and Anna Brüniche-Olsen, a postdoctoral researcher in DeWoody’s lab, wanted to understand how the booming population of gray whales in the east—numbering about 27,000 along the coasts of California and Mexico—is connected to approximately 200 western gray whales along the Russian coast.
“At any one time, there is a huge disparity in the number of whales in each location. Some think that intense Russian and Japanese commercial whaling in the 1950s might have wiped out the entire population in the west,” DeWoody said. “It’s possible then that a few survived and have been increasing in population. Or some might have dispersed from the east to make up today’s western population. It might also be a combination of the two.”
Photo: Merrill Gosho/NOAA/Wikimedia Commons