Marine Mammals

Less than 500 North Atlantic Right Whales Remain

Last year saw an alarming dieoff of North Atlantic right whales, something researchers refer as an “unusual mortality event.” Their carcasses littered the shores of the east coast—12 in Canada and 5 in the United States. Necropsies revealed that most of the animals died from blunt force trauma or entanglement issues. This brings the North Atlantic right whale’s fragile population to an estimated fewer than 500.

New Research Documents Environmental Change Through Dolphin Skin Cells

“We documented for first time marked changes in the pelagic food web length in response to various natural and anthropogenic related stressors,” said lead author Rocio I. Ruiz-Cooley, formerly of NOAA Fisheries’ Southwest Fisheries Science Center and now at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories. “This tells us that the food web is very dynamic, and reveals changes with the ecosystem around it.”

Elephant Seals Contaminated with Mercury

Researchers at Ano Nuevo found the mercury level in the water during the molting season 17 times higher than what it is at other times of the year. That led them to look at where the mercury was coming from: the seals themselves. The molted skin takes with it some of the mercury that the seals have accumulated from the prey they eat in the ocean. Their blood and muscles have higher concentrations of mercury than would damage the nervous system of a human.