Gray whale off Israel : ‘most amazing sighting in history'

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SaulChanukah

Gray whale off Israel : ‘most amazing sighting in history'

Post by SaulChanukah » Wed May 12, 2010 7:46 am

Posted on12 May 2010

From http://updatednews.ca

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Gray whale off Israel called ‘most amazing sighting in history of whales’

The discovery Saturday of a gray whale swimming in the Mediterranean Sea off Israel has been labeled by Robert Brownell, a prominent cetacean researcher, “the most amazing sighting in the history of whales.”

Alisa Schulman-Janiger, who runs a gray whale census and behavior project in Southern California for the American Cetacean Society, said the sighting was “the equivalent “of finding a dinosaur in your backyard–it was that unbelievable.”

To be sure, scientists are perplexed as to how the gray whale might have traveled from the Pacific to the North Atlantic–the most likely entry point to the Mediterranean–where the species is believed to have been extinct for about 300 years.

Among questions being asked is whether–if other gray whales also have gained or will in the coming years gain access to the Atlantic–this could mark the beginning of a re-population effort by a species not encountered in the region since the late 17th or early 18th centuries.

Brownell, who works for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, believes it could if the consensus among scientists is accurate that a diminished ice cover in recent years in the Arctic region, where the eastern North Pacific stock of gray whales feeds during the summer, has provided pathways to the Atlantic.

“We’ve had other strange sightings, like narwhals from the U.K. or Japan, but those are still within the same ocean basin that they’re known to occur in,” Brownell said of Saturday’s sighting. “So they’re unusual but not as unusual as something showing where it had once gone extinct.”

The 40-foot whale was spotted more than a mile beyond Israel’s Herzliya Marina, close to Tel Aviv, and followed and photographed for two hours by scientists from the Israel Marine Mammal Research & Assistance Center. They initially assumed it was a sperm whale because, like gray whales, it lacked a dorsal fin. But the mammal was later positively identified as a gray whale.

While the news has not yet been widely reported, it has generated a buzz of excitement among scientists and conservation groups.

Erich Hoyt of the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society blogged on Monday: “Discounting the possibility of the Panama or Suez canals, I suggest that the Northwest Passage is the most likely entry route. In August, 2007, it was announced that the Northwest Passage was nearly ice-free for the first time and these conditions continued into the summer of 2008.”

To be sure, gray whales could not have survived in the North Atlantic unnoticed for 300 years, so it’s universally agreed that this particular whale hails from the eastern North Pacific stock–the only viable population of gray whales, numbering about 19,000 animals.

Erich Hoyt of the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society

blogged on Monday: “Discounting the possibility of the Panama or Suez canals, I suggest that the Northwest Passage is the most likely entry route. In August, 2007, it was announced that the Northwest Passage was nearly ice-free for the first time and these conditions continued into the summer of 2008.”

To be sure, gray whales could not have survived in the North Atlantic unnoticed for 300 years, so it’s universally agreed that this particular whale hails from the eastern North Pacific stock–the only viable population of gray whales, numbering about 19,000 animals.

Scientists have discounted both possibilities. That leaves the Arctic route, either an easterly Northwest Passage journey across the top of North America, or a much longer westerly voyage across the top of Russia.

Brownell agrees the former journey represents the most likely scenario and adds that gray whales in the Atlantic might have historically come from the Pacific stock.

Historically there were three distinct populations of gray whales–the eastern North Pacific stock; the North Atlantic stock, and the Korean or western Pacific stock.

The western Pacific stock is critically endangered and might number fewer than 100 animals.

The North Atlantic population probably became extinct in large part because of hunting during the whaling era. Fossil records have shown that gray whales utilized both sides of the Atlantic. They probably shared a common northern feeding ground and fossils have been found as far south as Florida.

It is not known what the whale was doing in the Mediterranean, when it entered the Atlantic or whether it was the only gray whale to have strayed into that ocean. But from now on, scientists will be on the look out for more of the same species.

Ralph
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Re: Gray whale off Israel : ‘most amazing sighting in history'

Post by Ralph » Wed May 12, 2010 10:15 am

It's all part of Evolution, Saul.
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"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."

Albert Einstein

SaulChanukah

Re: Gray whale off Israel : ‘most amazing sighting in history'

Post by SaulChanukah » Wed May 12, 2010 11:28 am

Ralph wrote:It's all part of Evolution, Saul.
One day, Ralph, you will have antennas coming out of your head :wink:

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Re: Gray whale off Israel : ‘most amazing sighting in history'

Post by Ralph » Wed May 12, 2010 1:56 pm

SaulChanukah wrote:
Ralph wrote:It's all part of Evolution, Saul.
One day, Ralph, you will have antennas coming out of your head :wink:
*****

Oh that happened a few years ago.

Just saw a report from the Israel Navy that their sonar techs are picking up distress calls from the whale's belly. Some guy named Jonah wants out.
Image

"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."

Albert Einstein

SaulChanukah

Re: Gray whale off Israel : ‘most amazing sighting in history'

Post by SaulChanukah » Wed May 12, 2010 1:57 pm

Ralph wrote:
SaulChanukah wrote:
Ralph wrote:It's all part of Evolution, Saul.
One day, Ralph, you will have antennas coming out of your head :wink:
*****

Oh that happened a few years ago.

Just saw a report from the Israel Navy that their sonar techs are picking up distress calls from the whale's belly. Some guy named Jonah wants out.
And didnt they call you Mr. Superman for help?

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Re: Gray whale off Israel : ‘most amazing sighting in history'

Post by living_stradivarius » Wed May 12, 2010 5:42 pm

Ralph wrote: Oh that happened a few years ago.

Just saw a report from the Israel Navy that their sonar techs are picking up distress calls from the whale's belly. Some guy named Jonah wants out.
Without understanding the fundamental biological principles underlying evolution they couldn't even distinguish a whale from a big fish.
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