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Antarctic Killer Whales May Seek Spa-Like Relief in the Tropics

 

ScienceDaily — NOAA researchers offer a novel explanation for why a type of Antarctic killer whale performs a rapid migration to warmer tropical waters. Scientists believe that warmer waters help the whales regenerate skin faster, after spending months coated with algae in colder waters.




"The whales are traveling so quickly, and in such a consistent track, that it is unlikely they are foraging for food or giving birth," said John Durban, lead author from NOAA's Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla, California.


 
"We believe these movements are likely undertaken to help the whales regenerate skin tissue in a warmer environment with less heat loss."
 


 

As evidence, the researchers point to the yellowish coating on Antarctic killer whales caused by a thick accumulation of diatoms or algae on the outer skin of the animals. The coloring is noticeably absent when they return from warmer waters indicating the upper epidermis of the skin has been shed. One tagged Antarctic killer whale monitored by satellite traveled over 5,000 miles to visit the warm waters off southern Brazil before returning immediately to Antarctica just 42 days later. This was the first long distance migration ever reported for killer whales.

More here: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111026113824.htm
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