"B.C.'s Grey Whales Outwit Climate Change"

"A one-of-a-kind pod of about 200 'resident' eastern Pacific grey whales, which spends every summer feeding near Vancouver Island while the 20,000 other members of the species continue their epic annual migration between Mexico and Alaska, could hold the key to the evolutionary history of the majestic mammal -- and to its future in the age of climate change -- according to a new study.

Two U.S. researchers probing the stability of the whale's population through a succession of ice ages over the past 120,000 years have concluded that the unique feeding regimen of the B.C. sub-group -- which feasts on krill and herring near the ocean surface while other greys filter food from the seabed -- may explain how the species continued to thrive even as its Pacific Coast habitat shrank dramatically whenever advancing glaciers lowered global sea levels.

The findings, published in the U.S.-based Public Library of Science journal PLoS ONE, suggest the Pacific grey whale could have had significantly larger populations in the distant past than most scientists assumed because of its ability to adapt to upper-ocean feeding -- a behaviour now best demonstrated by the Vancouver Island population."

Randy Boswell reports for Postmedia News July 11, 2011.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011