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Increase In Whale Sunburns May Be From Ozone Hole November 12, 2010
Blistering and other skin damage from the sun's ultraviolet rays are becoming more common in at least one whale habitat.
A study of three whale species in the Gulf of California has found that a growing number of the marine mammals are developing skin damage comparable to sunburn in humans.

A team of British researchers and whale experts from Mexico’s Cetacean Ecological Laboratory theorize that increased ultraviolet (UV) radiation due to depletion of Earth’s stratospheric ozone layer is causing blisters and other types of skin damage to whales.

While some experts say the ozone “hole” is healing thanks to a worldwide limit on the production of chemicals that destroy ozone, others say it’s unclear how the ozone layer has responded.

Either way, a thinner ozone layer has left paler-skinned species, like blue whales, highly susceptible to the higher UV radiation over recent decades.

Some say further research is needed to see if changes in the amount of cloud cover across the study area could be a factor.

Additional studies are also planned to determine if whales can develop the ability to enhance their natural sun protection processes by, for instance, getting suntans.

Photo: File