Bouncing Baby Whales

In recent years, the number of gray whales born on the Pacific Coast have been declining to worrisome numbers. In 1999 about 270 whales washed ashore dead, many of them from malnourishment. Whales munch on fatty little crustaceans called amphipods and as the ocean heats up, populations of prey have been reduced. But like the birds in Europe (listen to story), it appears that whale populations are bouncing back. ::AP via HuggAccording to the AP report, pregnant female whales are thriving despite a warming Arctic feeding environment. It appears that the whales have taken advantage of the melting ice and have found new avenues to scoping out crustaceans burrowing in the mud.

The number of calves that passed Point Piedras Blancas near San Luis Obispo jumped from 945 last year to 1,018 calves in 2006, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said. Fewer than 300 of the 3-month-olds were spotted in 2000 and 2001. The whales have traditionally migrated to summer feeding grounds in the northern Bering Sea, but have been forced farther north in recent years.

A few weeks ago, this TreeHugger met a Tel Aviv University professor, Yoram Yom-Tov who has spent time studying the effects of Global Warming on mammals. There is an accepted rule in science, known as Bergmann’s Rule, which predicts as the climate gets warmer, animals’ bodies should get smaller. That’s why wolves in Canada are about six times larger than they are in Saudi Arabia.

But while studying the effects of Global Warming on (non-whale) animals from Alaska to Denmark, Professor Yoram Yom-Tov found surprising results. Animals in some countries, especially northern ones, are not following Bergmann's Rule as expected. As the world heats up in some places, it is creating a more favourable climate for species which normally would suffer from food shortage. These animals are not losing their bulk, but are enjoying the fat of the land instead.

"I think, the bigger the animal, the more quickly they can change. The hyena is more influenced by the time factor than the wolf, the wolf more than the jackal and the jackal more than the badger. It is partly due to the fact that bigger animals have larger home ranges and compete better for food," he explains.

Yom Tov's conclusion: Global Warming isn't affecting the world's species equally.

It goes without saying that the last 50 years has brought with it the most dramatic period of climate change in modern history. To document those changes, Yom-Tov travels around the world and studies the head and body sizes of animals and birds in university and museum collections from the 1950s to the present day. Yom-Tov measures the skulls of specimens, as skull-size is correlated to body size, and compares measurements among and between species.

"When one studies animals, one cannot look at the wolf alone, or its prey, the hare," explains Yom-Tov, who is rethinking popular adaptation theories. "The world is changing. The wolf is changing. And humans are changing. We have to look at Global Warming as a global phenomenon. Everything is connected; this web of life isn't two-dimensional, but maybe three or four."

Perhaps some food for thought on the surging whale population. ::Hugg