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The fin whale, under more threat in the Mediterranean than thought
Date:7/26/2012

Until now it was thought that fin whales in the Strait of Gibraltar and the Alboran Sea made up part of the distribution of this species of whale in the Mediterranean. However, an international team of scientists led by a Spaniard has revealed that their population has been overestimated by including specimens from the Atlantic that visit at certain times the western Mediterranean, where the noise generated by human activity affects their survival.

In 1991 the fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus) population in the Mediterranean Sea was estimated at 3500 specimens. A new study, published in Marine Mammal Science, now shows that this record included specimens from the Atlantic, and suggests that the distribution and size of the current population of this whale, which is threatened with extinction, should be reconsidered.

"The Mediterranean population has easily been overestimated, as the census included the whole of the southeast Mediterranean, incorporating Atlantic fin whales within the Mediterranean census", reported to SINC Manuel Castellote, the lead author of the study and researcher in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOOA), Seattle (USA).

The research team analysed 29,822 hours of recordings of the songs emitted by these marine mammals which can reach a length of 27 metres, and are the second biggest cetaceans in the world in order to identify the distribution limits of the Mediterranean fin whale and those of the north Atlantic fin whale in the Straits of Gibraltar, where the two populations overlap.

The results reveal that the presence of fin whales in the areas of the Straits of Gibraltar and the Alboran Sea southwest of the Mediterranean is exclusively limited to Atlantic fin whales that visit the Mediterranean Sea, above all in autumn and spring.

As a consequence, "the population of Mediterranean fin whales presents a much more limited distribution than currently described, excluding a significant
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Contact: SINC Team
info@agenciasinc.es
FECYT - Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology
Source:Eurekalert  

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