Fascinating new findings could shed light on global warming.
Scientists have had a tough time gathering data on beluga whales because of the remote arctic waters they live in — but a new study is shedding some serious light on the species.
Biologists from the University of Washington have analyzed data from 30 whales that were watched for a period of 15 years, and thanks to better tagging technology, scientists have discovered new details about the elusive whale’s foraging and migration patterns, according to a UPI report.
Scientists know of two populations of beluga whales, but since both live in the Bering Sea during the winter, it’s tough to track their movements. The whales move north in the summer into the Beaufort and Chukchi seas, following the movements of arctic cod, which they rely on for food. Belugas dive as deep as 1,000 feet in locations where the cod live, and as it turns out they also hunt in the ocean bed.
Thanks to this new data, scientists can better understand how global warming and climate change are affecting animals like the beluga whale.
“This study gives us a benchmark of the distribution and foraging patterns for these two beluga populations,” lead author Donna Hauser, a doctoral student in Washington’s School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, said in a statement. “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.”
The findings were published in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series.