Scientists were greatly shocked after examining dozens Genomes of blue whales from the North Atlantic Ocean. They also added individuals from contemporary and historical museum collections to the dataset.
The analyzes revealed this On average about 35 percent of the North Atlantic blue whale genome comes from fin whales (common whales). DNA mixing occurs as a result of hybridization between these two species. Scientists have long known that fin whale hybridization occurs, but they did not realize the extent of the phenomenon.
Blue whales can reach a length of about 33 metres, making them… The largest known animal that ever existed on Earth. Their weight ranges from 113 to 150 tons. Blue whales have been wiped out by long-term whaling. It is estimated that only 4,000 to 5,000 of these animals live in the eastern basin of the North Atlantic Ocean (small populations also exist in other parts of the world).
Body length Whale fin The fin whale is smaller than its cousin and reaches 26 meters in length, while its weight ranges from 60 to 90 tons. Both species separated in the family tree about 8.35 million years ago. Therefore, scientists wonder where their high degree of hybridization could come from.
Interestingly, the research revealed another unusual fact. It turns out that it was created Hybrids are fertile and capable of producing offspring of their own. Another surprise for the researchers is that gene flow only occurs from fin whales to blue whales. This means that Blue whale DNA is “diluted” by common whale DNANot the opposite.
Geneticist Mark Engstrom of the University of Toronto, co-author of the study, said in an interview with Live Science It is not known why such hybridization occurs on a large scale. However, he suggests that this may be due to the larger number of fin whales in the North Atlantic compared to blue whales.
Scientists point out that if both types of fin whales continue to mate, This may result in a loss of “part of the genetic variation.”.
As the experts wrote in their scientific article: “Hybridization of blue whales with fin whales appears to be frequent in the North Atlantic Ocean and the rate of hybridization should be monitored in the future.” Although the genetic variation of blue whales is high, this is probably due to “the recent emergence of so-called A bottleneck and long generations for species because it takes time to see the impact of population decline on genomes.”
“If the blue whale population does not rise from its current low levels, heterozygosity will likely decline over time,” she added.
The results of the research were published in the prestigious scientific journal “Conservation genetics“.
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