Cetacean experts were stunned when a North Pacific gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus) surfaced over the weekend off the coast of Israel—an indication that the whale came from the Atlantic Ocean, where no gray whales have been spotted since the 17th century. Most researchers think the whale hails from the eastern Pacific population, which migrates from the Bering and Chukchi seas to Mexico and California to feed and breed. But this gray whale seems to have traveled through the Northwest Passage into the Atlantic—a trip made possible because of climate change. That has cetologists excited, since it could be a first step for recolonization of the Atlantic by gray whales. This particular whale is unlikely to be part of that movement, however, as scientists say it's too emaciated to survive. But given that it has made the journey, experts say, others will likely follow.
This article has been corrected. An earlier version implied that the whale was spotted in the Atlantic Ocean.