[MARMAM] Blubber Thickness of Right Whales - Open Access
Carolyn A. Miller
cmiller at whoi.edu
Thu Oct 20 06:26:38 PDT 2011
We are pleased to announce the recent publication of the following paper
on blubber thickness of free-swimming right whales.
The paper is available online and Open Access from:
*Carolyn A. Miller, Desray Reeb, Peter B. Best, Amy R. Knowlton, Moira
W. Brown, Michael J. Moore *
Blubber thickness in right whales /Eubalaena glacialis/ and /Eubalaena
australis/ related with reproduction, life history status and prey
Marine Ecology Progress Series 438:267-283
The high variability in reproductive performance of North Atlantic right
whales /Eubalaena glacialis/ compared to southern right whales
/Eubalaena australis/ may reflect differences in lipid reserves.
Amplitude-mode ultrasound was used to measure the thickness of right
whale integument (epidermis and blubber, herein referred to as blubber
thickness) in /E. glacialis/ in the Bay of Fundy, Canada for 5 summer
seasons and in /E. australis/ off the South African coast for 2 austral
winter seasons. /E. glacialis/ had significantly thinner blubber layers
(mean ±1 SD = 12.23 ± 2.16 cm, n = 172) than /E. australis/ (16.13 ±
3.88 cm, n = 117), suggesting differing levels of nutrition between the
2 species. Blubber was thickest in females measured 3 to 6 mo prior to
the start of pregnancy (/E. glacialis/), thinner during lactation (/E.
glacialis, E. australis/) and then thicker with time after weaning (/E.
glacialis/). These results suggest that lipids in blubber are used as
energetic support for reproduction in female right whales. Blubber
thickness increased in calves during suckling (/E. glacialis, E.
australis/) but subsequently decreased after weaning (/E. glacialis/).
Juvenile and adult male /E. glacialis/ blubber thicknesses were compared
between years of differing prey /Calanus finmarchicus/ abundances (data
from Pershing et al. 2005; ICES J Mar Sci 62:1511--1523); during a year
of low prey abundance whales had significantly thinner blubber than
during years of greater prey abundance. Taken together, these results
suggest that blubber thickness is indicative of right whale energy
balance and that the marked fluctuations in North Atlantic right whale
reproduction have a nutritional component.
Carolyn A. Miller
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