Genetics as a window to the past: How many whales
Steve Palumbi, Ph.D.
Hopkins Marine Station
Wednesday, November 5, 2003
Pacific Forum – 3:00 p.m.
conservation and management efforts in the sea depend on some knowledge of
past populations. Knowing how many individuals existed, past productivity
and environmental carrying capacity can alter plans for present-day
exploitation and how the future is charted. While whaling records have
been used to reconstruct the past populations of great whales, these
records are fragmentary and sometimes misleading. We are pioneering the
use of genetic tools to bridge the past and estimate the number of whales
before whaling. The results suggest that whaling records severely
underestimate past abundances. In fact, prior to whaling, there were
approximately ten times more whales than previously thought. This dramatic shift in the number of proposed whales parallels
similar conclusions for other large consumers such as turtles, sharks,
tuna and swordfish, and indicate the oceans of the past were very
different places than they are today.
Decoding extremophile archaea with DNA microarrays