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A Whale of Two Cities
By Joseph Tepper, February 1, 2011 @ 01:02 PM (EST)
Source: National Geographic

Although found at both poles, the Antarctic and Arctic Minke whales were thought to have never come into contact, until DNA analysis of a specimen caught in northern waters -a practice mandated on all Norwegian whaling ships- revealed the first hybrid of the two species. 

Traditionally, scientists believed that the timing and path of the whales' migration patterns separated the two groups by thousands of miles of ocean. The discovery of at least one hybrid, from Antarctic mother and Arctic father,  has challenged the previous assumption that the whales never share equatorial waters in the same season.

Still, the genetic blueprint of the whale doesn't tell the whole story. Scientists are unsure whether the new hybrid is a one time fluke, or if in the next few years similar whales will continue to show up on the radar. Some speculate this new breed is a sign that a lack of reliable food so urces is f orcing the whales outside of their traditional habitats and into foreign waters.

"It could be that these individuals are straying away from their territory in the search for food,” explains geneticist Kevin Glover, “and a few of them may have found their way to the Arctic Circle."


 

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