ACS Monterey Bay Program for October 2003
Studying Whales: a genetic perspective
During the last decade, the application of genetics to the study of cetaceans has led to exciting new discoveries.
Most recently a drastic revision of the pre-whaling population estimates of North Atlantic Humpback, Fin and Minke whale species has been proposed by our speaker and his student. The indications from the study are that historic populations were far, far larger than previously calculated. The new estimates were arrived at by genetic studies only recently possible and which contradict those based on the long accepted study of whalers' log books enumerating animals taken, which has been used by the International Whaling Commission in its deliberations over possible resumption of commercial whaling. It also will be interesting to consider the implications of the whale population work to gray whales and their conservation status.
The determination of new species of cetacean based on genetics rather than skeletal, morphological or ecological studies has also led to the discovery of new species of beaked whales, Minke whales, Blue whales and dolphins.
Members of ACS are already familiar with the genetic evidence used in the detection of illegal sales of protected whale species in Japanese fish markets. Professor Palumbi's lab was heavily involved in that work.
Dr. Palumbi, formerly on the faculty of Harvard University, joined Hopkins a year ago. He has also worked on population genetics in sea urchins, corals and other invertebrate groups and has become keenly involved regarding the size required for proposed Marine Protected Areas incorporating considerations of the need for sufficient genetic diversity. He is a stimulating, lively speaker. Please join us.
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Last updated November 17, 2003.