Mutation Rates in Whales Are Much Higher Than Previously Reported

Whale displaying baleen
An international team of marine scientists, led by the University of Groningen in the Netherlands and the Center for Coastal Studies in the USA, has studied the DNA of family groups from four different whale species to estimate their mutation rates. The results revealed much higher mutation rates than previously thought, and which are similar to those of smaller mammals such as humans, apes, and dolphins. Using the newly determined rates, the group found that the number of humpback whales in the North Atlantic before whaling was 86 percent lower than earlier studies suggested. The study is the first proof that this method can be used to estimate mutation rates in wild populations and was published in the journal Science on August 31, 2023. The article is titledWild Pedigrees Inform Mutation Rates and Historic Abundance in Baleen Whales.”
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