North Atlantic right whale breaching
In a new study, researchers have found stress levels in entangled North Atlantic right whales to be up to 8 times higher than that of healthy whales. The study, which was led by Rosalind Rolland, was published in the journal Endangered Species Research. The population of the North Atlantic right whales has been shrinking for the past 7 years and there are just under 450 individuals left in the wild.
The Gulf of Maine has been the North Atlantic right whales main habitat, but the gulf is the fastest warming body of water in the world. Since just the beginning of the summer, approximately 17 whales have perished. Scientists believe the whales may be making their way into different areas in search of food—where more boat traffic and fishing nets are present.
Rosalind Rolland, the lead author of the study, developed a technique, sometimes using dogs, to find the feces of 100 North Atlantic right whales over a 15 year period. The feces samples were analyzed in the New England Aquarium’s lab. By collecting and analyzing the feces for such a long period, Rolland created a baseline for healthy stress hormone levels—which was not previously known. She then went on to compare it to the feces of entangled whales and found that the stress levels in those individuals were up to 8 times higher than other North Atlantic right whales.
Read more here.
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