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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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Three healthy southern right whales (left three photographs) next to a North Atlantic right whale (right) in visibly poorer body condition. Photos: Fredrik Christiansen (left & center-left), Stephen M. Dawson (center-right), John W. Durban/Holly Fearnbach (right)

Christiansen F, Dawson SM, Durban JW, Fearnbach H, Miller CA, Bejder L, Uhart M, Sironi M, Corkeron P, Rayment W, Leunissen E, Haria E, Ward R, Warick HA, Kerr I, Lynn MS, Pettis HM, Moore MJ


Population comparison of right whale body condition reveals poor state of the North Atlantic right whale


The North Atlantic right whale (NARW) is currently declining towards extinction. Suppressed reproductive rate, resulting from poor body condition, is likely a driver in this decline. Christiansen and colleagues used photogrammetry from drones to compare body condition of NARWs with that of three healthy populations of southern right whales (SRW) in Argentina, Australia and New Zealand. NARW juveniles, adults and lactating females all had poorer body condition than the SRWs, which could reduce growth, survival, and calving rates, and delay sexual maturation. Differences in exposure to anthropogenic stressors and environmental changes impacting prey availability are likely important contributing factors. The poor body condition of individuals is of major concern for the future viability of the NARW population.


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