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Whale poop indicates lower stress without ship traffic

Alaska Dispatch

According to CBC News, a newly published study of whales in the North Atlantic has presented the first evidence that associates marine ship traffic with chronic stress among a species of the oceans' largest mammals.

The experiment was the result of happenstance. The researchers were studying endangered right whales in the Bay of Fundy when the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, happened. Ship traffic essentially halted, and the team capitalized on the new quiet by testing for stress hormones in their subjects' feces.

As a result, the team gathered the first evidence that associates prolonged underwater noise from ships to physiological changes in whales. Previous studies had shown that whales change their behavior when presented with such sounds over a long period of time, but this was the first evidence of any physiological effects.

There are only about 450 right whales left in the wild, and a key reason for their low population is thought to be the multiple stressors in their environment.

Read much more, here.