Monday, 25 June 2018

Research shows diet shift of beluga whales in Alaska inlet

June 16, 2018 by Dan Joling

Beluga whales in Alaska's Cook Inlet may have changed their diet over five decades from saltwater prey to fish and crustaceans influenced by freshwater, according to a study by University of Alaska Fairbanks researchers.

An analysis of isotopes in beluga bone and teeth showed belugas formerly fed on prey that had little contact with freshwater. More recent generations of belugas fed in areas where rivers pour freshwater into ocean habitats.

New information on Cook Inlet belugas is important because the species is endangered and its numbers have not increased despite hunting restrictions and other protections. Mark Nelson, a wildlife biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the lead author of the study, called it a little piece of that puzzle.

"If there's something we can do to help them recover, we might start to know what that might be," he said in a phone interview from Fairbanks.

A population of 1,300 belugas in Cook Inlet dwindled steadily through the 1980s and early 1990s. Alaska Natives harvested nearly half the remaining 650 whales between 1994 and 1998. Subsistence hunting ended in 1999 but the population remains at only about 340 animals.

No comments:

Post a Comment

You only need to enter your comment once! Comments will appear once they have been moderated. This is so as to stop the would-be comedian who has been spamming the comments here with inane and often offensive remarks. You know who you are!

Related Posts with Thumbnails