Grey whale (Eschrichtius robustus) in Norwegian waters 2000 years ago - NMS Research Repository
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Grey whale (Eschrichtius robustus) in Norwegian waters 2000 years ago

15 April 2018


The modern distribution of the grey whale (Eschrichtius robustus) is restricted to the North Pacific Ocean, but during the Holocene it occurred also in the North Atlantic Ocean, perhaps as recently as the 17th century. In the western Atlantic, subfossil bones of 12 specimens of grey whale have previously been reported, whereas in the eastern Atlantic there are at least 25 subfossil remains of grey whale from the postglacial period, mostly from the Netherlands, along with one in Belgium, three in England and one in Sweden, ranging in age from approximately 10,000 to a few hundred years ago. Here we utilise a new method of identifying species from fragmentary bones, using collagen fingerprinting, to screen 373 cetacean remains from along the Norwegian coast, including the remains of at least one grey whale specimen dating to 1930–1750 years ago, which was recovered from Kringlevågen in the municipality of Solund (61°, 01″ N, 4°73″E). This find, confirmed by ancient DNA analysis, is the most northerly record of this locally extinct species and increases our understanding of grey whale palaeobiogeography in the North Atlantic.


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