Humans driving blue whales into Antarctica?

Last Updated: Tue, Nov 27, 2012 05:20 hrs

Sydney, Nov 27 (IANS) Whaling activities are driving large numbers of the Australian blue whales into Antarctica, currently on the endangered list, shows a study.

"Our genetic data unexpectedly found a higher proportion of pygmy blue whales in the Antarctic than the whaling catch data," said Catherine Attard, study co−author and doctoral candidate at Macquarie University, who is researching blue whale genetics with Flinders University.

"Our genetic analyses are based on samples collected since 1990. Previous analyses are based on non−genetic, biological data from historical whaling records, which span from 1913 to 1973," Attard was quoted as saying in the journal Molecular Ecology.

"This suggests either that climate change has recently pushed Australian whales to colder climates, or that decreases in population size from historical whaling has changed the ecology of the subspecies," said Luciana Moller of the School of Biological Sciences at Flinders University.

"Impacts from climate change or whaling are corroborated by our other genetics analyses that examine evolutionary, rather than recent, timescales," said Luciano Beheregaray, professor at Flinders.

For example, future monitoring of population numbers should now consider that not all blue whales in the Antarctic are Antarctic blue whales.

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