November 25, 2019
In 1830 whale hunting in the South Atlantic began, and within just over 100 years the once large population of humpback whales had been slashed to just 440 individuals. Thankfully commercial whale hunting was banned in 1986, and since then humpback numbers have continued to increase.
Researchers from NOAA’s Marine Mammal Laboratory have recently conducted a new survey of humpback numbers in the South Atlantic and have made a positive discovery. By combining both historical data, recent sightings and genetic information they have been able to conclude that the humpback population is more productive and resilient than previously thought.
The genetic information indicates that the genetic diversity is still quite high, despite the fact the population went through a serious ‘bottle neck’ during the whale hunting years. Thankfully enough breeding females survived during this time to ensure genetic variety in the current population, which has been estimated to have returned to 90% of pre-hunt numbers. Additional research will be required to see if other humpback populations have been able to maintain genetic diversity and increase their numbers over time.
Source: Science News
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