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A gray whale swam halfway across the world, setting a new record

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A Gray Whale Swam Halfway Across the World, Setting a New Record

The 40-foot male traveled from the North Pacific to Namibia, the first sighting of the species in the Southern Hemisphere

PC: Konrad Wothe, Minden Pictures: Nat Geo Image Collection

A gray whale has swum the longest distance ever recorded in a marine vertebrate—more than 16,700 miles—over halfway around the world. This data indicates that a gray whale sighted off the coast of Walvis Bay, Namibia, traveled at least 11,000 miles from its usual range. Scientists believe this whale may be a part of the endangered western North Pacific population of gray whales, of which there are only around 200 individuals remaining.

PC: Nature Picture Library, Alamy

This is the first gray whale ever recorded in the Southern Hemisphere, but it took several years of genetic research to confirm the whale originated in the North Pacific, according to a study published today in the journal Biology Letters.

Gray whales typically travel about 5,000 miles, so scientists are still figuring out why this particular individual would travel so far from home. Right now, there’s not enough data to draw conclusions, but it’s certainly a fascinating puzzle!