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Credit: Seacoast Science Center

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Arctic Adaptations

It can be very hard to find whales in the wild – they spend very little time at the surface, and not much of their body comes out of the water when they do break the line between our world and theirs.  The bright white bodies of beluga whales are easy to see from a distance when they are at the surface, but they usually appear as tiny white dots that emerge and are gone again in as little as three seconds – maybe it was just an ice floe!  Belugas lack a distinguishing feature that helps whale-watchers find other species (like orcas) at the water’s surface – a dorsal fin!  Belugas (and their cousin, the narwhal) are among the small number of whale species that don’t have fins on their back. 

For these arctic animals, lacking a dorsal fin provides a number of advantages in their unique environment: it cuts down on surface area, preventing heat loss, and allows them to travel closely under ice sheets.  Instead of the fin, belugas have a prominent dorsal ridge on their back – a firm crest that may be used to break open breathing holes in arctic ice sheets.

 

These belugas lack dorsal fins, an important adaptation in arctic waters.

This week, we’re asking home improvement mega-chain Home Depot to help keep these ice-adapted animals in the arctic waters where they belong.  On their website, Home Depot asserts that they “exercise good judgment by ‘doing the right thing’ instead of just ‘doing things right.’ We strive to understand the impact of our decisions, and we accept responsibility for our actions.”  Let’s encourage Home Depot to live up to their own high standards – send an email to tell them: “Home Depot, do the right thing and don’t sponsor Georgia Aquarium’s attempt to import wild belugas.  Whales belong in the wild!

 

Our campaign to target the sponsors of the Georgia Aquarium is winding down, but we still have a few weeks to go, and we’ve had good feedback from some of the sponsors!  By sharing your thoughts with them, you are encouraging them to learn more about the issue of captivity and exactly what they’re supporting when they sponsor the Georgia Aquarium, and they are reconsidering that decision!  See you next week for our next beluga fun fact!