Bowhead Whale Mysteries Uncovered By Genetic Study Using Modern And Ancient DNA

October 22, 2012 in Animals & Insects

The first genetic analysis of bowhead whales, throughout their entire range, has just been completed. The study was done by using hundreds of unique samples taken from a wide variety of different modern populations and many archaeological hunting sites dating back thousands of years.


The ancient DNA samples used by the researchers have been gathered over the past 20 years, primarily from: “old vessels, toys, and housing material made from baleen — preserved in pre-European settlements in the Canadian Arctic.” The new research has shed some light on the effects that whaling has had on genetic diversity, documenting the loss of several unique mitochondrial lineages in the recent past. The researchers comment that some of this loss may have been caused by the effects of increased sea ice during the ‘little ice age’.

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