Gray whale spotted in the Atlantic for first time in 200 years

  • The gray whale was extinct from the Atlantic for 200 years
  • Researcher: 'My brain was trying to process what I was seeing'
  • Its presence in the Atlantic could be a result of climate change

A gray whale spotted off the coast of Nantucket, Massachusetts. Via New England Aquarium.

(NewsNation) — A gray whale, believed to be extinct from the Atlantic Ocean for 200 years, was suddenly spotted off the coast of Massachusetts.

The whale was spotted on March 1 by the New England Aquarium’s aerial survey team 30 miles off Nantucket, a popular summer destination off Cape Cod.

Although the gray whale species thrives in the Pacific Ocean, they have been extinct from the Atlantic Ocean since the 1700s. Experts believe the gray whale spotted last week is the same one spotted off the Florida coast in December, according to a press release by the New England Aquarium.

“My brain was trying to process what I was seeing, because this animal was something that should not really exist in these waters,” research technician Kate Laemmle said in the press release. “We were laughing because of how wild and exciting this was, to see an animal that disappeared from the Atlantic hundreds of years ago.”

The survey plane with the researchers circled the area for 45 minutes as the whale repeatedly dove and resurfaced, appearing to be feeding. Afterward, researchers reviewed their photos and confirmed it was indeed a gray whale, according to the press release.

“This sighting highlights how important each survey is. While we expect to see humpback, right and fin whales, the ocean is a dynamic ecosystem, and you never know what you’ll find,” Orla O’Brien, associate research scientist in the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life at the New England Aquarium, said in the press release. “These sightings of gray whales in the Atlantic serve as a reminder of how quickly marine species respond to climate change, given the chance.”

Science News

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