Nov06

Sperm whale sighting shows changing ecosystem

Author // James Robbins Categories // Whale & Dolphin General News

Sperm whale sighting shows changing ecosystem

The largest species of toothed mammal has been seen in the Canadian Arctic in rare encounter.

As reported in The Guardian, conservationists from WWF were monitoring narwhals near the northern tip of Baffin Island in September.

During the study they captured video of two sperm whales fluking, in what is only the second confirmed sighting of the species in the area.

The Arctic is a rich habitat for whales and dolphins, but the physical make-up of sperm whales means that they are typically less common in colder waters. 

As well as struggling to break through ice because of their body shape, sperm whales have fatty tissue that can turn waxy at colder temperatures, making it difficult for them to navigate.

These animals come in the face of a wider trend of shifting distributions, with species changing their range to incorporate colder waters that are warming as a result of climate change.

This pattern is particularly acute in the Arctic, where a fundamental lack of data means that there are very few baseline datasets that can be used to understand new species sightings in the appropriate context.

ORCA's monitoring work in the Arctic through our cruise programme is therefore critical in better understanding the long term changes to these crucial habitats and allow us to effectively monitor species in the face of increasing anthropogenic threats to cetaceans.