[MARMAM] Blubber Thickness of Right Whales - Open Access

Carolyn A. Miller cmiller at whoi.edu
Thu Oct 20 06:26:38 PDT 2011

Dear colleagues,

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.

Kind regards,
Carolyn A. Miller
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