A female Western North Pacific gray whale has set the record for long-distance migrations.
The 9-year-old lone whale, nicknamed Varvara, swam an impressive 6,800 miles in 69 days, which is the "longest recorded distance travelled during a mammal migration," a news release reported.
The whale was fist tagged off Russia's Sakhalin Island in 2011, and has since crossed the Pacific from the northwest to northeast and followed the western Canadian and U.S. coast to breeding grounds near Baja California, Mexico. She then returned home in a 172-day 14,069-mile trip that also broke records for round-trip migration.
Until Varvara's ambitious migration, the record holder for mammalian migration was a humpback whale that made a 6,000 miles trek from Brazil to Madagascar in 2010.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has the grey whale listed as "critically endangered," and believed the population has reached a meager 130 animals. The whale's recent record-breaking journey suggests there is a genetic mix between the eastern and western populations. This is significant for conservation evaluations because in the past the east and west groups were considered to be completely separate.
The findings also dispute the idea that grey whales follow exclusively north-south migratory routes along coasts, and shows they are able to navigate in open water.
"The population identity of whales off Sakhalin Island needs further evaluation," said the scientists, led by Ladd Irvine at Oregon State University.
The findings were published in a recent edition of the journal Biology Letters.