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Genetic Study Proves Urgent Need To Protect Humpback Whales In The Arabian Sea

11 January 2017, 9:22 am EST By Paulene Arellano Tech Times
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Humpback whales seen under the Golden Gate Bridge
The number of humpback whales in the Arabian Sea still reveals a smaller population compared to those in other regions. The widest genetic study on the marine mammal seeks to provide better understanding to help in formulating marine conservation laws.  ( Jenrik Eriksen | WCS )

In September 2016, Tech Times reported how 14 humpback whale populations had been taken off the endangered species list.

But despite continuing international efforts to protect whales, such as the ban on commercial whaling implemented 50 years ago, the number of humpback whales in the Arabian Sea still reveals a smaller population compared to those in other regions.

The widest genetic study on humpback whales to date seeks to provide better understanding of these mammals to help in formulating marine conservation laws.

Molecular Technologies And Gene Flow Among Humpback Whales

A large-scale study, published in the journal Molecular Ecology and funded by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Columbia University, American Museum of Natural History, and other organizations, aims to help reassess efforts to save the marine creature.

The research examines 3,188 humpback whales in the southern hemisphere (from the South Atlantic to the Indian Oceans) and reveals the recuperation of different whale populations in these areas.

These whales exhibit the longest migratory movement. Tracking down and studying these mammals in the field can be difficult. However, molecular technologies fill the gap and provide a deeper understanding of the species all by examining the creatures' gene flow and distinguishing the migration pattern and connections among whale populations in the southern hemisphere.

Breeding stocks in the eastern and western South Atlantic and Indian Ocean were the subject of the molecular technique called polymerase chain reaction (PCR). The results show male whale migration patterns and reveal connections between populations from different breeding grounds.

"Refining our understanding of these populations will help us determine protection measures for these great whales as they face new threats while recovering from an extended period of previous whaling," Dr. Howard Rosenbaum of WCS's Ocean Giants Program said.

Protecting Humpback Whales Of The Arabian Sea

Humpback whales, known for their distinct songs and acrobatic movements, were subjected to protection measures that needed thorough research and explanation.

In 1966, an international ruling was made to ban commercial whaling. Since then, the mammals' populations in the southern hemisphere and nearby regions have shown signs of recovering from their decline.

However, the non-migratory humpback whales in the Arabian Sea stand out as most at risk of extinction since their breeding ground is isolated. There are fewer than 200 whales in this population.

A humpback whale dives in the Arabian Sea. Photo Credit: Tim Collins
(Photo : Tim Collins | WCS) A humpback whale dives in the Arabian Sea.

The findings of the recent study could aid in the formulation of better laws on preservation and conservation, but the research can merely recommend measures.

Humpback whales still face the dangers of pollution and motorized and technical disturbances in the open waters.

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