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. Marine Scientists Monitor Longest Mammal Migration

The scientists found some humpbacks traveling from Antarctica across the equator to as far north as Costa Rica to overwinter, a distance of approximately 8,300 kilometers or about 5,157 miles.
by Staff Writers
Moss Landing, CA (SPX) Apr 11, 2007
Marine scientists recently published a research paper in the science journal, biology letters, that found humpback whales migrate over 5,100 miles from Central America to their feeding grounds off Antarctica; a record distance undertaken by any mammal.

Kristin Rasmussen, a biologist with Cascadia Research Collective, and lead author in the study, finds the record-breaking migration interesting, but is most pleased that the study validates a long held assumption that humpback whales travel to warm water areas during the winter.

"It was very exciting because for years everyone said humpback whales could be found in warmer waters during the winter months, but this was the first time we were actually able to quantify this on a global scale, and relate it to these long distance migrations" said Rasmussen.

Researchers conducted the survey by identifying individual humpback whales on their wintering area off Central America, and then comparing these with whales identified on their feeding areas off Antarctica. Identification of individual whales is accomplished by comparing a unique set of markings on their fluke, like a "fingerprint," with a catalog of photographs held by the Antarctic Humpback Whale Catalog at the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine.

The scientists found some humpbacks traveling from Antarctica across the equator to as far north as Costa Rica to overwinter, a distance of approximately 8,300 kilometers or about 5,157 miles. The authors noticed that the presence of cold water along the equator coincided with the occurrence of this northerly wintering area, not only in the eastern Pacific, where the Central American whales were studied, but also in the eastern Atlantic, where another southern hemisphere humpback whale population can be found north of the equator during winter.

Daniel Palacios, an oceanographer working out of NOAA's Southwest Fisheries Science Center laboratory in Pacific Grove, Calif., correlated sea-surface temperature with the whale migration by using data collected from satellites and distributed by the National Oceanographic Data Center.

"This study was possible thanks to the availability of reliable, high-resolution sea-surface temperature data collection that cover even the most remote regions of the globe," said Palacios.

"Southern Hemisphere humpback whales wintering off Central America: Insights from water temperature into the longest mammalian migration" - PDF Report

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Related Links
NOAA
NOAA's Southwest Fisheries Science Center
NOAA's National Oceanographic Data Center
Cascadia Research Collective
College of the Atlantic
Moss Landing Marine Laboratories
Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research
Darwin Today At TerraDaily.com
Follow the Whaling Debate

Why Small Dogs Are Small
Salt Lake City UT (SPX) Apr 11, 2007
Soon after humans began domesticating dogs 12,000 to 15,000 years ago, they started breeding small canines. Now, scientists from the University of Utah and seven other institutions have identified a piece of doggy DNA that reduces the activity of a growth gene, ensuring that small breeds stay small.

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