Ancient DNA reveals that bowhead whale lineages survived Late Pleistocene climate change and habitat shifts
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The climatic changes of the glacial cycles are thought to have been a major driver ofpopulation declines and species extinctions. However, studies to date have focused onterrestrial fauna and there is little understanding of how marine species responded to pastclimate change. Here we show that a true Arctic species, the bowhead whale (Balaenamysticetus), shifted its range and tracked its core suitable habitat northwards during the rapidclimate change of the Pleistocene–Holocene transition. Late Pleistocene lineages survivedinto the Holocene and effective female population size increased rapidly, concurrent with athreefold increase in core suitable habitat. This study highlights that responses to climatechange are likely to be species specific and difficult to predict. We estimate that the coresuitable habitat of bowhead whales will be almost halved by the end of this century,potentially influencing future population dynamics.
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