Alaska, Greenland whales meet in Northwest Passage

Sept. 21, 2011 at 6:38 PM
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NUUK, Greenland, Sept. 21 (UPI) -- Bowhead whales, giant denizens of the arctic, are using the Northwest Passage to move across the top of the Americas, researchers in Greenland say.

Skeletons and DNA samples have long suggested bowhead populations living on each side of the passage have met and mingled, and now a study using satellite tags has confirmed they do, the BBC reported Wednesday.

A team led by Mads Peter Heide-Jorgensen of the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources has tagged more than 100 bowheads with satellite trackers over the last decade.

In August as the arctic sea ice neared its annual minimum, satellite data showed one whale from the Greenland side and one from the Alaskan side arrived in the same area north of the Canadian mainland.

They spent about 10 days in the same area of ocean before heading back to their respective home ranges, researches said.

"I'm pretty sure that the low sea ice in the summer has triggered this migration through this area," Heide-Jorgensen said.

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