A humpback whale swam over 9,800 kilometers from Brazil to Madagascar in the longest migration by a mammal ever documented. Peter Stevick from the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine documented the journey. His study was published in the journal, Biology Letters. Mr. Stevick said, “The main take-home message is that the movement patterns of these animals are messier and less constrained than we tend to think.” (Source: Nature.com)
The great traveling whale is a female that was photographed first near Brazil, and two years later again near Madgascar by a tourist, who actually uploaded his whale photos to the website Flckr. A woman named Gale McCullough of Hancock, Maine regularly searches through humpback photos on the site. Because of her years of looking at humpback whale photos, she remembered previously seeing a photo of the whale snapped in Madagascar. The flukes of each whale’s tail are distinct, which is why they are used for scientific photo identification. She is a research associate at the College of the Atlantic, and showed the photos to scientists there.
Extensive searching through an international whale photo identification catalogue enabled scientists to match the photographs. Once the photos were known to be of the same whale, scientists estimated the shortest possible distance between the sighting locations, which is 9,800 kilometers. They said it is likely the distance was even greater, as the whale probably took at least one detour into a nearby ocean for feeding.
“This remarkable movement shows either that humpback whales are amazingly flexible, or that they’re capable of making amazingly large navigational mistakes! “said, Phillip J. Clapham, from the National Marine Mammal Laboratory in Seattle. (Source: Boston.com)
Fred Johansen, a Norwegian, took the Madagascar humpback photos. He works in the automotive industry, but his first love is nature.
Humpback whales typically do migrate long distances, spending their summers in cooler, northern waters, and winters in tropical and sub-tropical waters for breeding and calving. In 2007, a study documented seven humpbacks in Costa Rican waters had traveled from the Antarctic, a distance of about 5,200 miles. This was considered one of the longest single humpback migrations.
Image Credit: Public Domain