Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Rare beluga data show whales dive to maximize meals


Date: February 12, 2016
Source: University of Washington

As the Arctic continues to change due to rising temperatures, melting sea ice and human interest in developing oil and shipping routes, it's important to understand belugas' baseline behavior, argue the authors of a new paper published this winter in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series. Its authors drew upon a rare dataset that spans 15 years of dive information for 30 whales to produce a comprehensive analysis of beluga migration and feeding patterns in the Arctic.

"This study gives us a benchmark of the distribution and foraging patterns for these two beluga populations," said lead author Donna Hauser, a doctoral student in the University of Washington's School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences. "However, there still needs to be additional work to see how beluga behavior has changed in concert with changing sea ice conditions in the Arctic."

Beginning in 1993, researchers worked with Alaska Native communities in Northwest Alaska and Aboriginal tribes in Canada to tag beluga whales. The whales often swim close to shore during early summer, making it possible to capture a whale and attach a satellite-linked tag to the dorsal ridge along its back.


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