Marine researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society, the American Museum of Natural History, and the Environment Society of Oman, among other organizations have discovered that the humpback whales of the Arabian Seas are not only genetically differentiated from other whales, but that they have also been isolated for close to 70,000 years from other kinds of whales.

Though very well known for long distance migrations, the Arabian Sea humpback whales continue to surprise scientists for maintaining a distinct population that has kept to its natural habitat for thousands of years. It is not the only humpback whales in the world, but it has kept its own population from other humpback populations of North Pacific and Southern Hemisphere whales for about 70,000.

According to Tim Collins of the WCS, “The epic seasonal migrations of humpbacks elsewhere are well known, so this small, non-migratory population presents a wonderful and intriguing enigma. They also beg many questions: how and why did the population originate, how does it persist, and how do their behaviors differ from other humpback whales?”

These enigmatic humpback whales have not only kept their own populations isolated from other humpback populations, they have also made their genetic configurations distinct from that of other whales. Researchers compared the mitochondrial and nuclear DNA samples of about 70 Arabian Sea humpback whales to that of other whale populations in other waters, and found a marked difference in their DNA sequencing as well as other genetic compositions.

The researchers are of the opinion that the Arabian Sea humpback whales may have originated from the Southern Indian Ocean, but have distinguished themselves as the most isolated humpback population in the world. It is being considered that this whale population may be under survival threats because of their low genetic diversity and the anthropogenic threats they face, combined with their low population and marked isolation from others from around the world.

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