Scientists have discovered a new population of blue whales between the North and South Islands of New Zealand, with findings suggesting the group are genetically distinct from others in the region.
As reported in the Independent, a group consisting of more 700 individuals have been studied by researchers from the Marine Mammal Institute at Oregon State University.
The three year study, published in Endangered Species Research, outlines initial observations of 50 individuals observed during a ten day expedition in 2014, with acoustic monitoring and biopsies used to confirm that these were a distinct resident group and not transient members of other populations in the Pacific or Antarctic Oceans.
The study is particularly important as the region is in the midst of significant industrial activity, with oil and gas rigs in the area and plans in progress for seabead mining operations.
The particular community of the largest animal in history is actually smaller than usual, with adults in New Zealand waters around 60% of the size of those found in Antarctic waters.
Though not a regularly sighted species, ORCA surveys have recorded blue whales in the Bay of Biscay and Arctic Waters, and the most recent sighting has been during our cruise in the Pacific Ocean with Silversea.