Thursday, May 2, 2019

Narwhals aren't genetically diverse

Narwhal populations are increasing but the genetic diversity of these animals haven't increased over the years. Scientists thought that there wasn't much genetic variation due to inbreeding. However, after doing studies this wasn't found to be the case. After genomes were sequenced they were found to have similar DNA to beluga whales, polar bears and walruses. The narwhal population has grown despite this low genetic diversity. What has scientists surprised is the fact that the narwhal population has thrived even though in most animals and plants that have little genetic variation they aren't able to adapt to climate change.

I think that this is really strange because previous research would suggest that narwhal populations would go down due to them not being genetically diverse. This makes me wonder if other animal species have low genetic diversity and are still able to do well in the wild. The research done here will be influential in population genetics and animal populations that have been affected by climate change as well.


  1. I too find this article really interesting, because it may suggest that individuals in the population haven't experience mutations and most likely are secluded, resulting in little genetic change. Although the article poses this finding in an optimistic tone, I find it concerning that the population is increasing but has limited variation, as environmental parameters in the ocean are changing at faster rates than on land, which could cause stress on these organisms in the near future. Without adaptations to deal with changes in their environments, narwhals may face challenges with retaining healthy population sizes more quickly than other species.

  2. Good read. That narwhals are able to thrive despite low genetic diversity makes me think of human populations which thrive under the same conditions. People in isolated locations and within certain cultures that practice endogamy (think of the Amish) can have lower genetic diversity and yet they often maintain their communities for hundreds of generations. It can be quite dangerous though if defective alleles are passed on within such populations, which is why genetic diversity protects species.

  3. I really enjoyed reading your post! I find it absolutely amazing how animals can have similar DNA to such different species