A new study shows that a small number of southern right whales have returned to their ancestral New Zealand breeding grounds more than a century after the species was hunted to local extinction. Using DNA
profiling, researchers determined that seven whales are now migrating between sub-Antarctic islands and the bays of mainland New Zealand, where thousands of whales used to birth and raise calves before whalers extirpated them. According to historical records, as many as 30,000 of the right whales once migrated to the region, where they could be seen from the shoreline as they slapped their tails and breached almost entirely out of the water. “The protected bays of New Zealand are excellent breeding grounds, and I suspect we may soon see a pulse of new whales following the pioneers, to colonize their former habitat,” said Scott Baker of Oregon State University’s Marine Mammal Institute. The findings were published in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series.
Oregon State University