Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Whale population size, dynamics determined based on ancient DNA

Date:
May 9, 2012
Source:
Public Library of Science
Summary:
Researchers compare ancient, modern whale DNA to investigate discrepancies between genetic data and historical estimates.

Estimates of whale population size based on genetics versus historical records diverge greatly, making it difficult to fully understand the ecological implications of the large-scale commercial whaling of the 19th and early 20th centuries, but a comparison of DNA samples from modern and prehistoric gray whales supports the idea that the population was substantially larger pre-whaling and saw a sharp, recent decrease that is consistent with whaling as the cause.

The full results are reported May 9 in the open access journal PLoS ONE.

Previous estimates of pre-whaling population size in gray whales using historic records and census modeling suggest there used to be about 15,000 to 35,500 eastern Pacific gray whales. In contrast, estimates from genetic data suggest a much higher original population size of about 78,000 to 116,000 individuals. This discrepancy, though, could be explained by a pre-whaling decrease in population. The authors of the current study, led by Elizabeth Alter of City University of New York (York College), set out to test this hypothesis.

They isolated DNA from whale bones excavated from archaeological sites, ranging from about 150 to 2,500 years old. By comparing these sequences with sequences from modern whales, they determined that a severe decline in whale population occurred recently, suggesting that the original population size was indeed larger than estimated based on historical record and arguing against population decline caused by any pre-whaling forces.

"Retrieving DNA from ancient whales allows more direct insights into their population histories than using modern DNA alone. In this case, we were able to look at pre-whaling specimens of gray whales, and found that the genetic data are consistent with a sharp and recent bottleneck -- very likely the result of commercial whaling. As methods for retrieval and analysis of ancient DNA improve, we'll be able to increasingly refine population histories for heavily exploited species like whales."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Public Library of Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. S. Elizabeth Alter, Seth D. Newsome, Stephen R. Palumbi. Pre-Whaling Genetic Diversity and Population Ecology in Eastern Pacific Gray Whales: Insights from Ancient DNA and Stable Isotopes. PLoS ONE, 2012; 7 (5): e35039 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0035039

Cite This Page:

Public Library of Science. "Whale population size, dynamics determined based on ancient DNA." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 May 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120509180044.htm>.
Public Library of Science. (2012, May 9). Whale population size, dynamics determined based on ancient DNA. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120509180044.htm
Public Library of Science. "Whale population size, dynamics determined based on ancient DNA." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120509180044.htm (accessed September 1, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Monday, September 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

We've Got Mites Living In Our Faces And So Do You

We've Got Mites Living In Our Faces And So Do You

Newsy (Aug. 30, 2014) A new study suggests 100 percent of adult humans (those over 18 years of age) have Demodex mites living in their faces. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Washington Wildlife Center Goes Nuts Over Baby Squirrels

Washington Wildlife Center Goes Nuts Over Baby Squirrels

Reuters - US Online Video (Aug. 30, 2014) An animal rescue in Washington state receives an influx of orphaned squirrels, keeping workers busy as they nurse them back to health. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Experimental Ebola Drug ZMapp Cures Lab Monkeys Of Disease

Experimental Ebola Drug ZMapp Cures Lab Monkeys Of Disease

Newsy (Aug. 29, 2014) In a new study, a promising experimental treatment for Ebola managed to cure a group of infected macaque monkeys. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) State health officials say testing has confirmed the presence of a killer amoeba in a water system serving three St. John the Baptist Parish towns. (Aug. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins