Just How Well Off Is the Pacific Gray Whale?
Is the Pacific gray whale population healthy or is it much smaller than historical levels? A new study suggests the latter.
When the Pacific gray whale left the Endangered Species list in 1994, it was under the assumption that a population of 20,000 whales was healthy and normal. But new genetic tests reported this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggest that the gray whale once had a much larger population -- 100,000 individuals or more -- which would make today's population quite weak by comparison.
To make matters worse, Pacific gray whales today may be having some serious health issues, as reports of "skinny" whales suggest that some grays are actually starving as their food supply dwindles due to global warming.
The gray whale is one of earth's oldest species of mammals. Here's hoping it sticks around for a few thousand years to come.
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