Phylogeny-based suggesting a low germline mutation rate (m) in baleen influened research ranging from assessments of whaling impacts to evolutionary cancer biology. We estimated m directly from pedigrees in four baleen whale species for both the mitochondrial control region and nuclear genome. The results suggest values higher than those obtained through phylogeny-based estimates and similar to pedigree-based values of preexploitation whale abundance by 86% and suggests that m cannot explain low cancer rates in gigantic mammals. Our study shows that it is feasible to estimate m directly from pedigrees in natural populations, with wide-ranging implications for ecological and evolutionary research.

Suárez-Menéndez, M., Bérubé, M., Furni, F., Rivera-León, V. E., Heide-Jørgensen, M.-P., Larsen, F., Sears, R., Ramp, C., Eriksson, B. K., Etienne, R. S., Robbins, J., & Palsbøll, P. J. (2023). Wild pedigrees inform mutation rates and historic abundance in baleen whales.