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Gray Whale (Eschrichtius robustus) sighted off the Coast of Palestine

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  • Dr. Norman Ali Bassam Khalaf
    Gray Whale (Eschrichtius robustus Lilljeborg, 1861) sighted off the Mediterranean Coast of Palestine By: Dr. Sc. Norman Ali Bassam Khalaf-von Jaffa. The
    Nachricht 1 von 1 , 4. Juni 2013
      Gray Whale (Eschrichtius robustus Lilljeborg, 1861) sighted off the Mediterranean Coast of Palestine

      By: Dr. Sc. Norman Ali Bassam Khalaf-von Jaffa.


      The appearance of a gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus Lilljeborg, 1861) off the coast of Palestine in May 2010 has stunned scientists, in what was thought to be the first time the giant mammal has been seen outside the Pacific in several hundred years.
      The whale, which was first sighted off Herzliya, north of Jaffa in central Palestine on Saturday 8th May 2010, is believed to have travelled thousands of miles from the north Pacific after losing its way in search of food.
      "It's an unbelievable event which has been described as one of the most important whale sightings ever," said Dr. Aviad Scheinin, chairman of the Israel Marine Mammal Research and Assistance Center which identified the creature (The Independent, 2010).
      A population of gray whales once inhabited the north Atlantic but became extinct in the 17th or 18th centuries and has not been seen there since. The remaining colonies live in the western and eastern sectors of the north Pacific.

      "What has amazed the entire marine mammal research community is there haven't been any gray whales in the Atlantic since the 18th century," he said. Dr. Scheinin said the creature, a mature whale measuring some 12 metres (39 feet) and weighing around 20 tonnes, 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. Dr. Scheinin said: "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," (The Independent, 2010).
      The population which lives in the northeastern Pacific normally migrates southwards in around October, heading for warmer waters around the Gulf of California in a huge round trip of at least 5,000 miles (8,000 kilometres). So when autumn came, this particular gray whale began travelling south, keeping the land mass on the left and heading for the Californian Gulf with the aim of "turning left" into the bay. But instead, it reached Gibraltar and turned left into the Mediterranean and ended up off the shores of Palestine.
      "The question now is: are we going to see the re-colonisation of the Atlantic?" Dr. Scheinin said. "This is very important ecologically because of the change of habitat. It emphasises the climate change that we are going through."
      So far, the whale seems to be happy enough in the waters off the shores of Palestine.
      "It is pretty thin, which indicates the trip was quite harsh, but we think it can survive here," Dr. Scheinin said. "Gray whales are very generalist in what they feed on." Now experts are mulling the possibility of tracking the whale by satellite - a costly operation that would need outside funding and expertise, Dr. Scheinin said. "It's quite a big operation to do this. If it stays around here for the next month, it's worth having someone come in and do this professionally," he said. "It will be interesting to see where it goes and to follow it" (The Independent, 2010).


      References:

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      Khalaf-von Jaffa, Dr. Norman Ali Bassam (2012). Fauna Palaestina – Part Two. Zoological Studies in Palestine between 1983 – 2009 / Fauna Palaestina - Teil Zwei. Zoologische Studien in Palästina zwischen 1983 – 2009. ISBN 978-9948-16-667-2. 1. Auflage / First Edition : July 2012, Shaaban 1433 H. 208 Seiten / Pages (Arabic Part 120 Pages and the English Part 88 Pages). Publisher: Dar Al Jundi Publishing House, Jerusalem, Palestine. http://dr-norman-ali-khalaf-books.webs.com/faunapalaestinapart2.htm Khalaf-von Jaffa, Dr. Norman Ali Bassam (2013). Fauna Palaestina – Part Three. Zoological Studies in Palestine between 2005 – 2012 / Fauna Palaestina - Teil Drei. Zoologische Studien in Palästina zwischen 2005 – 2012. ISBN 978-9950-383-35-7. Erste Auflage / First Edition : July 2013, Shaaban 1434 H. Publisher: Dar Al Jundi Publishing House, Jerusalem, Palestine. (In Publication). http://dr-norman-ali-khalaf-books.webs.com/faunapalaestinapart3.htm Scheinin, Aviad P. , Dan Kerem, Colin D. Macleod, Manel Gazo, Carla A. Chicote and Manuel Castellote (2011). Gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus) in the Mediterranean Sea: anomalous event or early sign of climate-driven distribution change?. Marine Biodiversity Records, page 1-5. Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, 2011, doi:10.1017/S1755267211000042; Vol. 4; e28; 2011. Published online. http://www.oceanicsociety.org/sites/default/files/images/pdf_files/Scheinin%20et%20al_Gray%20whale%20in%20the%20Med_MBR_2011%5B1%5D.pdf The Independent (2010). Scientists stunned as grey whale sighted off Israel. WEDNESDAY 12 MAY 2010. http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/scientists-stunned-as-grey-whale-sighted-off-israel-1971890.html Walker, Matt (Editor, Earth News) (2010). Mediterranean gray whale appears 'back from the dead'. http://news.bbc.co.uk/earth/hi/earth_news/newsid_8672000/8672970.stm
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