The History of Whales Read from DNA


in Whales, Whaling, and Ocean Ecosystems

Published by University of California Press

Published in print January 2007 | ISBN: 9780520248847
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520933200 | DOI:
The History of Whales Read from DNA

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Populations of all the baleen whales have dramatically been reduced by whaling, and unprecedented international cooperation has established a global moratorium on the hunting of whales for commercial purposes until stocks recover. This chapter describes a new method that employs the analysis of genetic variation to measure the numbers of whales before whaling. It presents published accounts of prior methods of whale population estimation using catch data and compares results from both approaches. Genetic estimates of whale populations are far higher than those previously obtained from catch records. It is important to note that the fundamental data for both methods have uncertainty; for example, records may be missing in the whaling data, and the mutation rate may be higher than phylogenetic analyses suggest. The chapter ends with a discussion of potential ways to bring divergent estimates of whaling history into accord.

Keywords: genetic variation; whaling; whale population estimation; catch data; whaling history

Chapter.  11726 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Aquatic Biology

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