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Global warming puts whales in the Southern Ocean on a diet

Photo: Fredrik Christiansen

New research from Aarhus University reveals that right whales off the coast of South Africa have become increasingly thinner over the years due to a lack of food. The warmer waters of South Africa, where the whales migrate to mate or raise calves, do not provide sufficient food during the winter months. Right whale mothers rely on their fat reserves to produce milk for their calves during this time. The research shows that the whales have become 25% thinner since the 1980s, which increases the risk of mortality for newborn calves. The shrinking population of krill, the primary food source for right whales, is attributed to the melting sea ice and rising sea temperatures. The whales are forced to forage for less energy-rich krill further north, resulting in insufficient fattening before winter. The study highlights the potential threat to the right whale population if the trend continues.