First Gray Whale Seen South of Equator

One is spotted off the coast of Namibia
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted May 14, 2013 5:08 PM CDT
First Gray Whale Seen South of Equator
In this file photo, a gray whale surfaces at the Ojo de Liebre lagoon in Guerrero Negro, Mexico.   (AP Photo/Guillermo Arias)

(Newser) – Scientists scoping out dolphins off the coast of Namibia this month saw something that by all rights shouldn't have been there: a gray whale. The confirmed sighting marks the first time such a whale has been spotted south of the Equator, reports the Guardian. What's more, gray whales are typically found in the north Pacific and have been extinct in the Atlantic since the heyday of 18th-century whale hunts.

Marine biologists say this is not the same gray whale that turned up in the Mediterranean in 2010. But the two sightings suggest something unusual is going on. One theory is that climate change is affecting the whales' feeding habits, perhaps by making it easier for them to travel through the Northwest Passage. Another is that gray whales have finally rebounded from the calamitous drop in population they suffered centuries ago and are striking out anew. Or maybe a little bit of both. (Read more whales stories.)

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