The gray whale was spotted during an aerial survey on March 1, about 30 miles off the coast of Nantucket. Photo Credit: New England Aquarium

Animals USA21. March 2024

Grey Whale Not Extinct: Finally Spotted, After Two Centuries!

A grey whale has been spotted off the coast of Massachusetts, the United States, more than 200 years after being presumed extinct in the Atlantic Ocean.

“This sighting highlights how important each survey is,” says Orla O’Brien, an associate research scientist at the New England Aquarium’s Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life. “While we expect to see humpback, right and fin whales, the ocean is a dynamic ecosystem, and you never know what you’ll find.”

The “incredibly rare event” occurred 48 kilometres south of Nantucket, a small island off Cape Code. During an aerial survey, pictures have been taken of the animal. The marine mammal is easy to identify with its lack of dorsal fin, its trademark mottled-grey-and-white skin, and its ridged dorsal hump. It can grow up to 15 meters and weigh about 41,000 kilograms. In the last 15 years, only five grey whales have been spotted in Atlantic and Mediterranean waters, including one off the coast of Florida in December 2023 – scientists believe it is the same specimen identified off New England. “These sightings of grey whales in the Atlantic serve as a reminder of how quickly marine species respond to climate change, given a chance.”

Smithsonian Magazine

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