With sea ice loss, beluga whales make longer and deeper feeding dives in the same places

Satellite tracking devices on beluga whales in the Arctic show how they reacted to far lower sea ice concentrations in recent years. Instead of shifting where they feed, as might have been expected, beluga whales continued to feed in similar (but now largely ice-free) places. However, where dive data were available, their dives were significantly longer and deeper than in years with higher ice concentrations. The research, led by former SAFS graduate student Donna Hauser and Prof. Kristin Laidre, were unable to tell whether the deeper, more prolonged, dives were bad for the belugas (because deeper dives use up more energy), or good for belugas (because they can access new feeding habitat in the absence of sea ice). The research appears in the journal Diversity and Distributions and is highlighted on UW News.

Beluga whales from the Chukchi population had significantly more long dives (top) and deep dives (bottom) in the later more ice-free period (2007-12, blue) than in the early period (1998-2002, red).
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