London: A female humpback whale has astonished marine biologists by swimming over 9,800 kilometres from breeding areas in Brazil to those in Madagascar, setting a record for the longest mammal migration ever documented.
According to Peter Stevick, a biologist at the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine, and his colleagues, the journey is unusual not just for its distance but also because it spanned an ocean basin, multiple breeding zones and almost 90 degrees of longitude.
What``s more, those that travel the farthest are usually males, whereas females are generally very loyal to their breeding sites, reports Nature.
"The main take-home message is that the movement patterns of these animals are messier and less constrained than we tend to think," said Stevick.
The female was first spotted off the coast of Brazil and then two years later in 2001, a tourist on a whale-watching boat snapped a photo of the humpback near Madagascar.
Daniel Palacios, an oceanographer at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, says that the record-breaking journey could indicate that migration patterns are shifting as populations begin to recover from near-extinction.
However, the real reasons for the whale``s impressive trek remain a mystery. The female could have been following prey, exploring new breeding habitats, responding to distant calls, or simply wandering astray.