For the first time, a genetic study has followed a humpback whale from one ocean basin to another, adding to the knowledge of whales’ migratory patterns.
Researchers reporting in the most recent issue of the Royal Society’s Biology Letters, said a male humpback whale first sighted in Madagascar’s Antongil Bay in 2000 was found in 2002 swimming off the coast of Loango National Park in Gabon — on the other side of the African continent.
While the movement of whales from one ocean to another has always been a possibility, it’s quite difficult to track in the wild, said Bronx Zoo-based Wildlife Conservation Society researcher Cristina Pomilla, lead author of the study. This study demonstrates the ability of molecular technologies to confirm the movements of an individual whale between ocean basins.
The only other documentation of individual humpback whales moving from one ocean basin to another dates to when the species still was hunted commercially. Two whales marked off western Australia, in the Indian Ocean basin, were later killed off the coast of eastern Australian, in the Pacific Ocean.
Humpback whales were hunted commercially until the International Whaling Commission protected the species globally in 1966.