New whale species discovery off Florida?


This video is called Bryde’s whale (Balaenoptera brydei).

From Wildlife Extra:

Possible new whale species could be the world’s most endangered

A new species of whale may have been discovered off the coast of Florida. Scientists previously thought that the group of around 50 whales living in DeSoto Canyon in the Gulf of Mexico were a [sub]species of Bryde’s Whale (pronounced ‘brooda’).

However, new genetic testing indicates that they might in fact be different species, and if so that would make them the most endangered whale on Earth.

The new testing has identified that the whales could be a distinct subspecies of Bryde’s Whale, or they could potentially be a new species altogether.

The DNA sampled in the tests also suggests that there were previously many more of the whales. “It’s unclear based on the genetics exactly when [the decline] occurred,” says Michael Jasny, Director of the Marine Mammal Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), as reported on Mother Nature Network.

“It’s possible humans were involved in the decline, through whaling or industrial activities. There’s a suggestion in the published paper that oil and gas activity might have led to contraction of the range.”

DeSoto Canyon, where the whales live year-round, is adjacent to Mississippi Canyon, where the Deepwater Horizon oil spill occurred in 2010.

Testing carried out on whales in the area after the spill showed high levels of toxic metals, and it is suspected that the new whale species in the Gulf would also have been affected by the incident.

Jasny, who recently petitioned the US government to list the whales as an endangered species, believes that the whale needs protection from local environmental stressors, including shipping noises and the widespread use of seismic ‘airgun’ surveys for oil and gas exploration. The airguns have been banned in the canyon, but continue in nearby areas.

“Sound travels much farther in seawater than it does in air,” Jasny explains. “We know noise from seismic surveys travels particularly far and can have a large environmental footprint. Great whales are especially vulnerable.

“We know that airguns can destroy the ability of whales to communicate, hundreds of miles or in some cases even thousands of miles from a single airgun array. We know it causes great whales to cease vocalizing, and that it can compromise their ability to feed.

“It’s hard to imagine how this population — or possibly this species — would survive without protection.”

Along with other conservationists, Jasny hopes that the species will be listed as endangered, as this will afford it further protection. However the US Fish and Wildlife Service have a backlog of endangered species, which will mean a long waiting period for adding the whale to the list.

Should it be decided that the whale will be added to the list, it will then go to the US Endangered Species Act, which could take two years to process.