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.

Related Articles


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 March 4, 2015 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 March 4, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Australian Museum Shares Terrifying Goblin Shark With the World

Australian Museum Shares Terrifying Goblin Shark With the World

Buzz60 (Mar. 4, 2015) The Australian Museum has taken in its fourth-ever goblin shark, a rare fish with an electricity-sensing snout and &apos;alien-like&apos; jaw. Mike Janela (@mikejanela) takes a look. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Prince William Calls for Unified Effort Against Illegal Wildlife Trade

Prince William Calls for Unified Effort Against Illegal Wildlife Trade

Reuters - Entertainment Video Online (Mar. 4, 2015) Britain&apos;s Prince William pledges to unite against illegal wildlife trade on the final day of his visit to China. Rough cut - no reporter narration Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Rare Goblin Shark Found in Australia

Rare Goblin Shark Found in Australia

AFP (Mar. 3, 2015) A goblin shark, a rare sea creature described as an &apos;alien of the deep&apos; is found off Australia and delivered to the Australian Museum in Sydney. Duration: 01:25 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Kenya President Sets Fire to 15 Tonnes of Elephant Ivory

Kenya President Sets Fire to 15 Tonnes of Elephant Ivory

AFP (Mar. 3, 2015) Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta set fire to a giant pile of 15 tonnes of elephant ivory Tuesday, vowing to destroy the country&apos;s entire stockpile of illegal tusks by the year&apos;s end. Duration: 01:06 Video provided by AFP
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

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