January 15, 2010

Are Antarctic Minke Whales Unusually Abundant?

An ongoing debate in the management of Antarctic minke whales concerns whether they are more abundant now than a century ago, before commercial whaling. Some scientists contend that hunting of large whales resulted in an advantage for smaller whales, such as minkes, because of reduced competition for a small crustacean called krill, their main prey. These scientists propose that the Antarctic minke whale population is unusually, or artificially, abundant. Using analyses of genetic diversity, the authors estimate that the long-term population size of Antarctic minke whales falls within the range of estimates from three modern-day surveys of minkes in the Southern Ocean. The study, published in Molecular Ecology, does not support the proposition that an unusually large population of minke whales is competing with other whale species for a limited supply of krill. Credit: Lenfest Ocean Program

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