Study unveils previously-unknown hunting pattern of elusive beluga whales

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Study unveils previously-unknown hunting pattern of elusive beluga whales

Research paper published in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series has explained in detail about the earlier unknown hunting patterns of Beluga whales. The marine mammals, as per the researchers, dive deep underwater so that they can have maximum amount of food available to them during hunts.

In the winter months, two populations of the marine mammals live in the Bering Sea and as weather warms and ice begin to break, the mammals move into the Chukchi and Beaufort seas. The migration is expansive because the whales travel thousands of miles.

After arriving in the summer habitat, the beluga whales can dive as far as half a mile under water in the search of stable foods. Beluga whales look for food both deep along the seafloor and sloping grounds.

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Nothing much is known about the life and ecology of these rare marine mammals, which live in among one of the world’s remotest and frigid waters. As per the researchers, Beluga whales generally travel near to shore, which makes it easy to tag them and then could be tracked by satellite.

Donna Hauser from the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences at the University of Washington said, “It's a really fantastic system for getting relatively high-resolution information for these animals that spend most of their time underwater and offshore. In addition to their inaccessibility, these populations use remote areas of the Arctic, so they are generally hard animals to research”.

For the study, biologists have assessed the diving patterns of 30 whales over the time-period of 15 years. The researchers said that beluga whales are a source of sustenance for some of the human populations in the region therefore will also impact the lives of people there.

Now, the researchers will look into how the timing of beluga fall migration south may affect by later sea ice freeze in the northern Arctic under climate change.

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