Only 10 vaquita porpoises remain in the wild, but scientists say the world's smallest marine mammal could still make a comeback

Only 10 vaquita porpoises remain in the wild, but scientists say the world's smallest marine mammal could still make a comeback

The vaquita porpoise, down to 10 individuals left, can still survive.

Researchers found that the genetic makeup of the species is diverse enough to support recovery.

The most serious threat to the surviving vaquita are illegal fishnets that trap and drown the animal. 

The number of vaquita, a tiny, silver porpoise that lives exclusively in Mexico's Gulf of California, is down to 10 remaining in the wild.

But the world's smallest and most endangered marine mammal may be able to keep its numbers up, even with inbreeding, researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, determined in a study published in Science.

The team analyzed the genomes of 20 tissue samples and found that the genetic makeup of the population was diverse enough to make a recovery. 

This may be because the population had been a smaller one to begin with, with 570 existing in the wild in 1997.

Having a small population with a less diverse genetic makeup usually increases the risk of mutations that can harm a population and put their survival at risk. 

However, with the vaquitas, their small numbers may have helped to "purge" harmful genetic traits from spreading.