Genetics Reveal Pacific Subspecies of Fin Whale

New findings highlight diversity of marine mammals.


Fin whales are the second largest species of whale, sleek and streamlined in shape, and can be distinguished by their asymmetrical head coloration. The left lower jaw is mostly dark while the right jaw is mostly white. Photo credit: North Pacific fin whale, NOAA Fisheries/Paula Olson

New genetic research has identified fin whales in the northern Pacific Ocean as a separate subspecies, reflecting a revolution in marine mammal taxonomy as scientists unravel the genetics of enormous animals otherwise too large to fit into laboratories.

“The increasing study of cetacean genetics is revealing new diversity among the world’s whales and dolphins that has not been previously recognized,” said Eric Archer, a geneticist at NOAA Fisheries’ Southwest Fisheries Science Center (SWFSC) in La Jolla, California. Archer is the lead author of the identification of the new subspecies of fin whale.

“There’s definitely more diversity out there than has been on the books,” he said. “There has been a wave of progress in cetacean taxonomy.”

Read the full story here: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/feature-story/genetics-reveal-pacific-subspecies-fin-whale