Mathematics in Science and Research

Whale Populations Unit


This unit looks at the population statistics for specific species of whales that sustain hunting pressure over the years. The common name, scientific name, pre-exploitation estimates and present estimates of their population is given.

Whale Population Statistics
Educational Concepts and Skills

Mathematical concepts include:
  • analysis of data
  • average
  • estimation
  • percent
  • division
  • evaluate outcomes
  • graphic representations of information
  • use real world examples
  • investigate open-ended problems
  • Other skills and concepts:

  • geography
  • use of maps/charts
  • environmental relationships

  • Given the information in the Estimates of Pre-exploited and Present Populations of Selected Whale Species table, complete or respond to the following.

    1. What percentage of the original population of each species given is estimated to be remaining today?

    2. What is the estimated average of all species remaining today?

    3. Graph the results of the percentage remaining versus the species. Which type of graph would be appropriate to use with this data? Why?

    4. Which population is in the most danger of becoming extinct? On what do you base this conclusion?

    5. Both the Northern Right Whale and the Gray Whale were hunted to near extinction in the 1800's, which one recovered? Why do you think one recovered so much more successfully than the other? What might have inhibited the recovery of the less successful species?

    6. What are some obstacles that whales face in their attempt to recover their population? What do these species need in order to recover their pre-exploitation numbers?

    7. Which species of whales listed are observed off of the Mid-Atlantic states? Are there species not listed in the table that are observed off of the Mid-Atlantic states?

    8. Locate on a map the geographic areas that these species inhabit.


    Estimates of Pre-exploited and Present Populations
    of Selected Whale Species

    Population Estimates

    Pre-exploit Present Percent
    No. Right Eubalaena glacialis no estimate 1,000 N/A
    No. Right Eubalaena glacialis * 2,000 350 -
    No. Right Eubalaena glacialis * 10,000 350 -
    So. Right Eubalaena australis 100,000 3,000 -
    Blue Whale Balaenoptera musculus 228,000 14,000 -

    Balaenoptera musculus * 228,000 2,000 -
    Humpback Megaptera novaeangliae 115,000 10,000 -
    Sei Balaenoptera borealis 256,000 54,000 -
    Fin Balaenoptera physalus 548,000 120,000 -
    Bowhead Balaena mysticetus 30,000 7,800 -
    Sperm Physeter macrocephalus 2,400,000 1,950,000 -
    Bryde's Balaenoptera edeni 100,000 90,000 -
    Minke Balaenoptera acutorostrata 740,000 725,000 -
    Gray Eschrichtius robustus 20,000 21,000 -
    Killer Orcinus orca - - -

    Data taken from OCEANUS, Vol. 32, No. 1., Spring 1989.
    * Research data and estimates


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