A Rare Gray Whale Was Spotted Off The Coast Of Massachusetts, Baffling Scientists Since The Species Was Thought To Have Been Extinct In The Atlantic For 200 Years

Jay S - - illustrative purposes only, not the actual whale

Off the coast of Massachusetts, a gray whale has been spotted swimming through the waters around Nantucket, a small island. Experts were astonished by the event since the species was thought to have been extinct in the Atlantic Ocean for 200 years.

Aquarium scientists had been conducting an aerial survey about 30 miles south of Nantucket when the whale caught their eye. They let their plane hover over the whale for 45 minutes as they captured photos. The whale appeared to be feeding.

When the scientists landed, they immediately analyzed the images and discovered that the animal was the rare gray whale.

The gray whale is easy to identify because its ridged dorsal hump, mottled gray and white exterior, and lack of a dorsal fin set it apart from other species. It also is incredibly large, reaching a length of 49 feet and weighing 90,000 pounds.

Gray whales are known to frequent the Pacific Ocean today, but they disappeared from the Atlantic in the 18th century. Only five gray whales were seen in Atlantic and Mediterranean waters in the past 15 years.

One of the sightings occurred in December 2023 off the coast of Florida. It is believed to be the same gray whale that has now made its way over to New England.

What caused the gray whale to make an appearance in the Atlantic once again?

Joshua Stewart, a quantitative ecologist from Oregon State University who was not part of the study, stated that ecosystem changes on the West Coast have led to the deaths of many gray whales. So now, they’re showing up in places they normally wouldn’t.

Additionally, rising global temperatures have caused the Northwest Passage to be free of ice, allowing gray whales to travel through, a feat that was previously impossible.

Jay S – – illustrative purposes only, not the actual whale

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