LONDON — It wasn't love. It could have been adventure. Or maybe she just got lost.
It remains a mystery why a female humpback whale swam thousands of miles from the reefs of Brazil to the African island of Madagascar, which researchers believe is the longest single trip ever undertaken by a mammal — humans excluded.
While humpbacks normally migrate along a north-to-south axis to feed and mate, this one — called AHWC No. 1363 — made the unusual decision to check out a new continent thousands of miles to the east.
Marine ecologist Peter Stevick says it probably wasn't love that motivated her — whales meet their partners at breeding sites, so it's unlikely that this one was following a potential mate.
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"It may be that this is an extreme example of exploration," he said. "Or it could be that the animal got very lost."
Stevick laid out the details of the whale's trip on Wednesday in the Royal Society's Biology Letters, calculating that, at a minimum, the whale must have traveled about 6,200 miles to get from Brazil to Madagascar, off the coast of east Africa.
"No other mammal has been seen to move between two places that are further apart," said Stevick, who works at the Maine-based College of the Atlantic.