Is it an extinct species?

A rapidly declining population of Beluga whales still inhabit the Gulf of the St. Lawrence River in eastern Quebec. It is likely that this population is the remnant of a more extensive population that once inhabited the Champlain Sea.

The measure of whether a species of animal is extinct (no longer living) or extant (still alive), is whether or not it can mate successfully with another member of that species. In evolutionary theory, it is time and isolation that give rise to new species of animals.

Because whale skeletons are highly variable, even within the same species, and because it isn't known for certain whether 11,000 years is sufficient time to provide the genetic isolation needed to produce a new species, it is not possible to determine whether the Charlotte whale is extinct or extant. At the present time, it has been placed within the same genus and species (Delphinapterus leucas) as the modern Beluga whale.

Click to read about Zadock Thompson, George W. Perkins, or current research on the Charlotte whale.

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