Journal of Marine Biology & Oceanography ISSN: 2324-8661

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The Persian Gulf is Part of the Habitual Range of the Arabian Sea Humpback Whale Population

The Persian Gulf is Part of the Habitual Range of the Arabian Sea Humpback Whale Population

The humpback whale has long been considered a rare straggler to the Persian Gulf, however new evidence contradicts this and suggests that this species may be habitually present. We here critically review published and new records for Megaptera novaeangliae occurrence in the Gulf for the period 1883-2017. Of eight authenticated records (6 specimens, 2 live-sightings), seven are contemporary cases while one is a mid-Holocene specimen from UAE. An additional four possible records are based on unsubstantiated reports. Four current, regional range states are confirmed, i.e. the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Republic of Iraq, the State of Kuwait and the State of Qatar. Four of five newly reported cases are from Iran's coastal waters. We conclude that the Persian Gulf is part of the habitual range of the Arabian Sea humpback whale population, and has been since at least the mid-Holocene. It is unknown whether frequent passage occurs through the Strait of Hormuz or whether humpback whales are (semi) resident. The low abundance of this population and frequent deleterious anthropogenic events, particularly ship strikes and fishing net entanglements, are of major concern. Considering historical and taxonomic relevance, the formal description of Megaptera indica Gervais, 1883, from Iraq, is now thought to be a humpback whale subspecies M. novaeangliae indica.

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