Magazine article The Middle East

Oman's Endangered Marine Life

Magazine article The Middle East

Oman's Endangered Marine Life

Article excerpt

The Arabian Sea humpback whale outlived the last great ice age, surviving through 70,000 years of change, but now it is at risk of extinction.

Detailed scientific research, including satellite tracking, has revealed there are now less than a hundred of these extraordinary creatures living year round off the coast of Oman. They have become one of the most endangered and isolated whales on our planet.

The challenge is now on to recover their numbers and help them to survive.

"Scientific research in recent years has revealed their pre-historic ancestory," explained internationally renowned marine research scientist Rob Baldwin, who will speak at an event at London's Royal Geographical Society on Wednesday 18th October concentrating on Oman's marine life and particularly these endangered whales. "Information we are gathering from these whales is providing us with invaluable knowledge about the isolation of species in a remote corner of our oceans and giving us scientific sign posts towards their future survival in a rapidly developing region.

"In a broader context this knowledge informs our understanding of evolution and the survival of life on our planet."

Intense, annual upwellings, which turn tropical conditions into a neo-temperate environment drive and support food webs on which marine wildlife intricately depend.

The Arabian Sea humpback whale measures up to 16 meters long and is distinguished from other whales by, among other traits, its lifestyle and song. Unlike other whales, it doesn't migrate from warm tropical seas to polar feeding grounds, instead choosing to live year round in the warm yet rich waters off the Arabian peninsula. It is a more solitary whale, rarely moving in groups and about which we still know very little. The little we have learned merely adds intrigue, from its archaic-sounding song to advanced feeding techniques involving bubble nets to trap prey--blowing a ring of bubbles in a circle around a shoal of fish and then lunging up through the centre to feed on its captured prey. …

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