Posted at 4:17 PM on May 12, 2010
by Paul Huttner
Filed under: Climate change
Scientists are stunned by what appears to be the first sighting of a Pacific grey whale in the Atlantic in centuries.
The whale was sighted recently off the Israeli coast city of Herzliya is believed to be the first pacific grey whale in Mediterranean waters since the 18th century. The whale is believed to have lost its way in route to the Gulf of California and ended up in the Mediterranean Sea instead.
Marine biologists are abuzz with the news. The event has been described as as one of the "most important whale sightings ever," according to Dr Aviad Scheinin, chairman of Israels Marine Mammal Research and Assistance Center which spotted the whale.
The whale, which was first sighted off Herzliya in central Israel on Saturday, is believed to have travelled thousands of miles from the north Pacific after losing its way in search of food.
AFP reports Scheinin said the creature, a mature whale measuring some 12 metres (39 feet) and weighing around 20 tons, probably reached the Atlantic through the Northwest Passage, an Arctic sea route that connects the Pacific and Atlantic oceans and is normally covered with ice.
"Here you have an animal that is supposed to live in the Pacific and because the ice in the Arctic is melting, it managed to get through this corridor near the Bering Strait," Scheinin told AFP.
The sighting is significant from a climate change perspective as evidence that ice free conditions in much of the Arctic over the past 3 summers has lead to migration patterns that could have not occurred in the past.
Numerous studies document plants and animals reaction to recent climate changes. This may be one more big (200 ton) piece of evidence that climate change is indeed changing the way our world operates.