Genetic testing has identified that small group of whales living off the coast of Florida could be a distinct subspecies of Bryde’s Whale, or they could potentially be a new species altogether.
About 50 baleen whales live in an underwater canyon off the Florida Panhandle, making them the only resident baleen whales in the Gulf of Mexico, have long been classified as Bryde's whales. Several other baleen species visit the Gulf, but this group is the only one known to live there year-round and new tests have now shown that these whales are unlike any other of their species. Their genetic makeup makes them different enough to be considered a distinct subspecies of Bryde's — or a new species altogether.
Most endangered species
The study found that the Gulf of Mexico Bryde’s whale population has little genetic diversity, suggesting a small population size and a history of isolation; and that the population is evolutionarily distinct from all other Bryde’s whales examined to date. If the Gulf of Mexico Bryde’s whale qualifies as a new species it would be the most endangered species of whale on the planet,
Bryde's whales are found in warm seas around the world, growing up to 55 feet long and 90,000 pounds as they feast on plankton, crustaceans and small fish.