Far-rang­ing fin whales find year-round res­i­dence in Gulf of Cal­i­for­nia, study says

Tehran Times - - SCIENCE -

Re­searchers from Mex­ico and the United States have con­cluded that a pop­u­la­tion of fin whales in the rich Gulf of Cal­i­for­nia ecosys­tem may live there year-round -- an un­usual cir­cum­stance for a whale species known to mi­grate across ocean basins.

A fin whale sur­faces in Gulf of Cal­i­for­nia, Mex­ico, dur­ing the 2001 study show­ing the char­ac­ter­is­tic black col­oration of the body con­trast­ing with the white lower right jaw. Pho­to­graph by Craig Hayslip, Ore­gon State Univer­sity Ma­rine Mam­mal In­sti­tute, un­der U.S. Na­tional Ma­rine Fish­eries Ser­vice Per­mit 369-1757 is­sued to Bruce Mate.

Re­searchers from Mex­ico and the United States have con­cluded that a pop­u­la­tion of fin whales in the rich Gulf of Cal­i­for­nia ecosys­tem may live there year-round -- an un­usual cir­cum­stance for a whale species known to mi­grate across ocean basins.

What makes the dis­cov­ery even more un­usual, re­searchers note, is that they iden­ti­fied the pat­tern of move­ment of the fin whales, which are the sec­ond largest whale species in the world, us­ing a satel­lite track­ing data set from 2001. Ore­gon State Univer­sity pro­fes­sor Bruce Mate, di­rec­tor of OSU’s Ma­rine Mam­mal In­sti­tute and co-au­thor on the study, tagged 11 whales that year and was able to record the move­ments of nine of them for up to a year.

Since then, the OSU sci­en­tists have worked with col­leagues in Mex­ico to fur­ther study the whales, in the process iden­ti­fy­ing via a 2011 pho­to­graph at least one fe­male fin whale from the 2001 study -- this time, with a calf, in­di­cat­ing the whales may even stay in the re­gion for breed­ing and calv­ing.

“Re­searchers have known since at least the mid-1980s that fin whales in­hab­ited the Gulf of Cal­i­for­nia, but we just haven’t been able to get much in­for­ma­tion about them. As it turns out, we had an im­por­tant piece of the puz­zle in the track­ing data set we just hadn’t yet fully an­a­lyzed.”

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