The gray whale now exists only in the North Pacific Ocean, but surprisingly the species was first described from subfossil remains discovered on European coasts. Radiocarbon dates for seven specimens from the eastern North Atlantic range from 8,330 ± 85 to 340 ± 260 years ago. These data together with a similar range of dates for specimens from the western North Atlantic as well as limited historical records, support the view that the gray whale existed in the Atlantic Ocean until the 17th century. The populations on both sides of the North Atlantic apparently declined during a period of active coastal whaling, supporting the suggestion that it was extirpated by early whalers.

Author notes

Associate Editor was Patricia W. Freeman.