Warmer temperatures, more killer whales bad news for belugas: study

May 3, 2017

A study suggests a warming climate and more killer whales could spell bad news for beluga whales in the southwestern portion of Hudson Bay.

The study included researchers at Oceans North Canada, the federal government and the University of Manitoba.

It looked at an attack by killer whales on belugas near the mouth of the Seal River in northern Manitoba in August 2012.

Research showed that after the attack, the belugas scattered northward along the Hudson Bay coastline, away from a traditional calving area near the Seal River.

The study suggests such scattering could impact the survival rate of young belugas.

It also notes that as the climate warms and the water in western Hudson Bay sees longer ice-free periods, the presence of killer whales may grow.

“Here, short-term changes in distribution were recorded in relation to a predation event,” reads the study published in the Canadian Field-Naturalist.

“This change, if occurring multiple times during the longer ice-free season, could have significant biological consequences related to energy expenditure and success in calf-rearing.”

Kristin Westdal, one of the study’s authors, said such attacks don’t have much of an impact yet on the estimated 60,000 beluga population in western Hudson Bay.

But that could change if the ice-free season continues to expand and the killer-whale population grows, she said.

Source: The Spec.com

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