Throughout the Ages, Gray Whales Manage to Adapt and Survive
by Lucy Ji, age 15
Like that of the humpback and blue whales, populations of California gray whales have dropped significantly due to the whaling industry. Researchers have reported, however, that until humans interfered, the whales overcame far greater obstacles.
According to one study from the science journal PloS One, these whales withstood the effects of all ice ages that occurred over the last million years. If there had been a dramatic drop in population, there would have been inbreeding. When this happens over many generations, mutations occur in the offspring, which would have shown up in their DNA. But scientists have not found that gray whales have inbred, nor was there any dramatic drop in gray whale population.
Also, the ice ages would have blocked migration routes and cut them off from many of their feeding grounds. Through it all these whales managed to adapt and survive. They simply started feeding elsewhere by moving from the seafloor to the water column.
“What this population is signaling is the ecological plasticity that these guys have,” marveled Nicholas D. Peynson, curator of marine mammals at the Smithsonian Institution.
These intelligent animals overcame and adapted in ways most other species could not. This gives hope to other endangered species that are currently struggling for survival due to human interference.
[Source: The New York Times]