Image for representation. (Credit: REUTERS)
A 40-foot long male gray whale has become the first animal from its species to swim more than 26,876 kilometers (16,700 miles), the longest distance ever recorded in their history.
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A 40-foot long gray whale has become the first animal from its species to swim more than 26,876 kilometers (16,700 miles), the longest distance ever recorded in their history. According to a study published in Biology Letters on Wednesday, a group of scientists from Durham University and Sea Search Research and Conservation NPC, show how they found a gray whale off the coast of Namibia which they believed traveled halfway around the globe to get there.
The gray whale traced by the scientists is native to the North Pacific region. It was first noticed far away from its home in 2013, when fishermen reported its presence in Walvis Bay off the coast of Namibia. It was a very unusual sight since gray whales had not been seen in the region. The report caught the attention of oceanographers and zoologists which led to the formation of researchers to find out more about the whale.
The team of researchers took a vessel to obtain a small tissue sample from the 40-foot whale. Using this sample, Sea Search Research and Conservation’s Tess Gridley and Simon H. Elwen teamed up with Durham University’s evolutionary biologist Fatih Sarigol and Department of Biosciences’ A. Rus Hoelzel. Together the team conducted a DNA analysis of whale’s genomes with other gray whale genomes stored in the US National Center for Biotechnology Information.
Their analysis showed that the gray whale swimming around the Namibian coast was directly related 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. Hence, sightings of this gray whale is quite rare.
After confirming its origins, scientists then traced its possible route so far away from its usual location. The study suggests that the male cetacean could have taken a Canadian route through the Northwest Passage, or it could have swum from the southern route around South America or even across the Indian Ocean. Whichever route it took, the gray whale clearly travelled halfway across the planet. This unusual long-distance journey taken by the gray whale also suggests how warming of oceans is compelling some marine animals to look for a better biosphere for their survival.