Five distinct humpback whale populations have been identified across the North Pacific Ocean in the most comprehensive genetic study of the mammals in this region yet, a new study reports.
The ranges of the newly identified populations include: Hawaii; Mexico; Central America; Okinawa and the Philippines; and an additional West Pacific population whose range has yet to be determined more specifically.
Humpback whales are found in all oceans of the world, but the North Pacific humpbacks are genetically isolated enough to be considered a subspecies of other humpbacks, of which the new populations are further subclassifications, study co-author Scott Baker, a professor of fisheries and wildlife at Oregon State University, said in a statement. [Video: Humpback Whales Sing Their Tunes]
"Even within these five populations, there are nuances," Baker said. "The Mexico population, for example, has 'discrete' sub-populations off the mainland and near the Revillagigedo Islands, but because their genetic differentiation is not that strong, these are not considered 'distinct' populations."