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Posted Sun Jun 27 2010: from PhysOrg:
What is killing Argentina's right whales?
Fatal strandings of southern right whales around Argentina's Valdes Peninsula have soared in recent years, and worried scientists are not sure why, the International Whaling Commission heard Friday. From 1971, when systematic monitoring began, only a relative handful of whale deaths were reported over the next three decades. Starting in 2003, however, the mortality rate began to soar: from 31 that year, to 47 in 2005, 83 in 2007, 95 in 2008 and 79 last year, the IWC's scientific committee reported. "Over 90 percent of the deaths have been of first-year calves," the scientists said.... Three causes, possibly in combination, have been fingered as possible culprits. One is reduced availability of food for adult females, notably small crustaceans called copepods and krill. Poor feeding conditions lengthen the normally three-to-five year reproduction cycles, studies have shown. High concentrations of biotoxins and the spread of an infectious disease are also suspects.... Weakening might also explain "an extremely strange phenomenon": kelp gulls that alight on the backs of young whales at the water's surface and feed on their backs, creating lesions vulnerable to toxins or viruses.
[Read more stories about: marine mammals, toxic buildup, massive die-off]
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'Doc Jim says:
I think the right whales just don't want to be the only things left.

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