Scientists studying the humpback whales inhabiting the Arabian Sea have discovered that they are the most genetically distinctive humpbacks in the world. Studies have revealed that the Arabian Sea humpback whales have remained separated from their cousins for more than 70,000 years.
The humpback whales are characterized by its gigantic size and haunting paeans. Another distinct feature of the Arabian Sea Humpback Whales is migration habits which have been described as one of the longest mammal migration. Some humpback whales have been tracked across a distance of more than 9000 kilometers between the polar feeding areas and tropical breeding areas.
Tim Collins, the co-author of the new study, in a news release said, “The epic seasonal migrations of humpbacks elsewhere are well known, so this small, non-migratory population presents a wonderful and intriguing enigma. 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?”
Researchers pored over the nuclear and mitochondrial DNA extracted from tissue samples collected from the biopsies of 47 individual whales in order to assess the origin of the Arabian humpback whales. Scientists compared the samples with data sets from humpback whales in both the Southern Hemisphere and the North Pacific.
Researchers found the Arabian Sea humpback whales were genetically distinct. He whales were separated for more than 70,000 years. The separation could be linked to different glacial episodes in the late Pleistocene Epoch and so also due to the associated shifts in the strength of the Indian monsoons. The separation also could be precipitated by breeding cycles which are asynchronous and different populations breed during different seasons.
Howard Rosenbaum, one of the researchers said, “The Arabian Sea humpback whales are the world’s most isolated population of this species and definitely the most endangered. 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.”