Gray whale's migration from Russia to Mexico breaks record

A nine-year-old female gray whale has set a new record by migrating from Russia to Mexico and back again, a multi-thousand mile trip that began in November of 2011. Researchers know of the similar gray whales that hang out around California's coast during the fall migration, and they've relatively recently turned their attention to the western north Pacific gray whale population living near the Russian coast. One of those whales broke the researchers' belief that the Russian whales were isolated, however, by swimming from Russia's Sakhalin Island to Baja California's Cabo San Lucas.

The information comes from a report from the researchers that has been published in the Biology Letters journal; they say the whale — who's name is Varvara — spent 172 days completing the journey, which spanned 14,000 or so miles.

This is the longest known and completed mammal migration that has been documented, and was tracked via the use of satellite tags; a total of 7 western Pacific gray whales were being monitored. Three of those seven tags survived the tracking process, however, and one of them — that of Varvara — proved wildly successful.

At some point the western Pacific whale met up with eastern Pacific gray whales. Researchers are now questioning whether the eastern and western whales are separate groups or are all part of the same larger group.

SOURCE: National Geographic