Weekly Press Review – Friday 14 November 2014

Scarring on whales has made headlines this week as it has been found to be of great assistance to scientists in unraveling the mystery of whale migration routes.

Up until now scientist have been aware that humpback whales migrate between their polar feeding grounds and warmer waters for breeding, but the exact routes have been remained a mystery.

Researchers from the University of Pretoria’s Mammal Research Institute have revealed that the scarring on humpback whales, along with how recently they have occurred,  goes a long way to indicating which routes the whales are using to reach their breeding grounds off the west coast of South Africa, Namibia and Gabon.

Researcher, Tess Gridley says that by looking at the patterns of scars caused by cookiecutter sharks and killer whales and comparing these with the distribution of these predators, some light has been shed on the waters that the whales travel through en route to our coast.

“We are reasonable confident that cookiecutter sharks prefer living in warmer waters and avoid the shallower, colder waters of the Benguela ecosystem on the western coast of South Africa and Namibia.  So if whales have lots of cookiecutter shark bites, there’s a good chance they have recently passed through warm water in offshore areas, and only recently reached the coast,” says Gridley.

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