Monday, 31 October 2016

Genetic mutation in whale eyes may increase mortality risks



Date: October 24, 2016
Source: Florida Institute of Technology

Scientists have found that a genetic mutation in the eyes of right whales that hampers their ability to see in bright light may make them more susceptible to fatal entanglements in fishing gear, one of the major causes of death for this critically endangered mammal.

The study of this whale species, which numbers less than 500 individuals remaining in the Western Atlantic Ocean, may also help scientists better understand how vision works in other mammals, including people.

Florida Institute of Technology doctoral student Lorian Schweikert and her adviser, Michael Grace, professor of neuroscience and senior associate dean of science, worked with Jeffry Fasick, an assistant professor of biology at the University of Tampa, to characterize this newly discovered mutation in Northern right whales and Bowhead whales. Their results suggest that this mutation may seriously harm the whales' ability to visually avoid entanglement.

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