Scientists tail whales, hails their tales of record 14,000-mile migration

So heartwarming, it makes you want to blubber

Lookalike: not actually Vavara, but close

The habits and movements of three highly evolved creatures have been tracked by scientists using sophisticated technology for more than five months, The Register can reveal.

Bio-boffins collected copious amounts of data on the three Western Pacific Grey Whales — Vavara, Agent and Flex — who were tracked from Russia via Alaska to Mexico.

Vavara, the female, set a new world record for the longest migration path of any mammal, at more than 22,000 kilometers (14,000) miles.

However, her achievement could be at least partly down to luck as the satellite-tracked tags on Agent and Flex both stopped working during the five-and-a-half-month round trip. Tags typically last no more than 120 days.

Vavara, an endangered (apparently, see below) Western Grey, takes the record from previous record-holder, the humpbacked whale.

Scientists from the Marine Mammal Institute at Oregon State University published their research in Biology Letters earlier this week, but admit they aren’t entirely sure whether Vavara is in fact a Western Grey.

One possible scenario (please alert UKIP) is that she is an immigrant Eastern Grey.

Vavara and the other whales - the team tagged seven in total - went to the Baja breeding grounds of the Eastern Greys on their migration.

The Western Grey whale population had been feared extinct by scientists, but with Vavara and her companions making the journey from one side of the Pacific to the other in less than a year, boffins have to explore the possibility that there is only one population traversing the ocean.

It certainly feels as if this surveillance study, one of the most intrusive to date, raises more questions than it answers - not least in the area of whale surveillance data ethics. ®




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