Biology Professor Publishes in Prestigious Journal
By Zoee Simmons
Cal State San Marcos biological studies professor Sergio Nigenda-Morales is the lead author of the paper “The genomic footprint of whaling and isolation in fin whale populations,” which was recently accepted for publication in the scientific journal Nature Communications.
Nature is a highly selective scientific journal, meaning only about 8% of the articles submitted are selected for publication.
Nigenda-Morales’ research focuses on two different fin whale populations from the Eastern North Pacific and Gulf of California. The article describes the severe impact of whaling and migration on fin whale populations by investigating demographic history and using genome-based analyses.
“During the 20th century, industrial whaling significantly decreased the populations of many great whale species, with the fin whale being among the most affected,” Nigenda-Morales said.
After conducting genetic studies to analyze whole genomes, they found that the Eastern North Pacific fin whale population was severely impacted by whaling. The genomic testing indicated that the population was once much larger than previous ecological studies suggested. The article highlights the discovery of “a 99% reduction in the effective population size for the fin whale population in the Eastern North Pacific (from the coast of Alaska to California), which contradicts what was previously thought of as a reduction of around 70%.”
Nigenda-Morales and his fellow researchers also studied the Gulf of California fin whale population “that has remained small and isolated for 16,000 years, resulting in inbreeding which has led to an accumulation of harmful genetic variants that could negatively affect the long-term survival of this population.” Although this population of fin whale were not impacted by industrial whaling, their isolated migration patterns has put them at risk for extinction.
“Our study exposes the severity of whaling, emphasizes the importance of migration between populations, and demonstrates the usefulness of genome-based analyses for informing conservation strategies,” Nigenda-Morales said.