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Scientists use DNA to identify species killed during early whaling days

Posted: Thursday, Jun 5th, 2014


Antarctic blue whale. (Photo courtesy of Paul Ensor)
For more than 100 years, piles of whale bones have littered the beaches of South Georgia Island in the South Atlantic Ocean remnants of a vast and deadly whaling industry in the early 20th century that reduced many populations of Southern Hemisphere whales to near-extinction.

Recently, scientists announced they have used DNA from the bones to identify the species of whales killed at South Georgia, and to link the collection to a likely time period in the catch records. Their findings are being published in the journal Marine Mammal Science.

The study represents the most comprehensive investigation of historic genetic diversity in whales from around the Antarctic region prior to commercial whaling. The researchers attempted to extract DNA from 281 whale bones and were successful in 82 percent of the cases.



For the complete article see the 06-06-2014 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 06-06-2014 paper.


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