Killer whales’ epic journey to shed skin

Using satellite transmitters, scientists have observed killer whales making a 10,000 km migration from Antarctica into tropical waters, where they can safely shed and regenerate a layer of skin. Published this week in the British Royal Society’s journal Biology Letters, the study provides the first direct evidence of long-distance migration by killer whales (Orcinus orca), which travelled at top-speed, slowing only as they hit warmer waters.

“Our tagged whales followed the most direct path to the nearest warm waters north of the subtropical convergence, with a gradual slowing of swim speed in progressively warmer water,” noted authors and biologists John Durban and Robert Pitman from the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service.But rather than making the journey for food, or to reproduce, the authors speculate that these fearsome predators – at the apex of the marine food chain – are driven by an urge to exfoliate.

“We suggest that these movements may represent periodic maintenance migrations, with warmer waters allowing skin regeneration without the high cost of heat loss,” they said.

via Killer whales’ epic journey to shed skin

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