There have been quite a few features about Homo sapiens recently(Covid, conspiracies, pollution and such like), so I was keen to get back to some endangered animals, and a faithful reader from Mexico suggested to look at their local endangered cetacean, the vaquita porpoise. It so happened that the vaquita just had a high quality genome sequence out, which led to the surprising conclusion that the species, although reduced to a population of fewer than 20 individuals, doesn't have any genetic problems. The only thing that has to happen is that the illegal fishing (for other species, but killing vaquitas as they're the same size) needs to stop.
Adding to that, I also looked at other genome and genetic diversity data of other cetacean species, to see how they're coping these days, including humpback whales recovering after a close brush with extinction.
The resulting feature is out now:
Cetaceans balancing on the brink
Current Biology Volume 31, Issue 5, 8 March 2021, Pages R215-R218
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The vaquita porpoise (Phocoena sinus) is the most endangered cetacean, but a genome study suggests that it may still recover if the threat of gillnet fishing is removed. (Photo: Paula Olson/NOAA.)