Killer Whales Molt

Friday, October 28th, 2011

I didn’t realize that killer whales — pardon, orcasmolt, which poses certain problems:

The problem for them and other polar mammals is that molting means losing a ton of body heat, which can be potentially dangerous in such frigid waters.

So they swim 3,000 miles to warmer waters:

Researchers from the US’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration tracked the movements of five killer whales, all of which moved from the freezing Antarctic waters — average temperature 30 degrees Fahrenheit — to the relatively balmy subtropical waters off the coast of Brazil and Uruguay, where it’s 75 degrees. One whale managed the entire 6,000 mile round trip in just 42 days.

It appears these journeys are pretty much exclusively for regenerating their skin — at those speeds, they wouldn’t have enough time to go hunting or to take care of their young. It’s a trip that takes the whales far outside their natural comfort zone, as evidenced by the fact that the whales went slower and slower the further north they got.

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