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Who’d A Thought It? Whales ‘Adapt To Sea Warming’

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Mark Macaskill, The Sunday Times

Whales have dramatically changed their feeding habits in response to global warming, according to scientists in Scotland and Canada who have observed for the first time how long-lived species adapt to climate change.

Fin and humpback whales, which can live for more than 80 years, are arriving at prime summer feeding grounds in the North Atlantic a month before they did in the mid-1980s, to coincide with the earlier appearance of prey species such as krill.

Researchers at St Andrews University believe the species have tweaked the timing of seasonal migration in response to global warming, which in recent decades has increased sea surface temperature and caused ice packs to break up earlier.

They argue that the magnitude of the shift, not previously documented, reveals how the whales have survived significant climate changes over millions of years. The researchers also raise concerns over whether the species can continue to time their arrival in the feeding grounds with the occurrence of their main prey. […]

Baleen whales, so called because they have a comb-like fringe on the upper jaw instead of teeth, have existed for millions of years. They have survived glacial and interglacial periods, including the Dansgaard-Oeschger cycles, in which temperatures over Greenland rose by 8C–15C in the span of a few decades during the past 80,000 years.

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