How Do Whales Avoid Sunburn? Hint: Some Tan
Blue, fin, and sperm whales have different strategies to avoid sun damage.
Species like sperm whales can spend up to six hours at the ocean's surface in between dives, baking in the sunlight. So how do they protect themselves from a serious case of sunburn?
It turns out that their bodies have similar defense mechanisms against the sun's ultraviolet (UV) radiation as people, according to a new study published August 30 in the journal Scientific Reports.
Researchers took more than a hundred skin biopsies from blue, fin, and sperm whales in the Gulf of California (map) from 2007 to 2009. They used crossbows loaded with modified arrowheads to retrieve plugs of skin from the marine mammals.
They found that blue whales—which have the lightest skin color of the three species—tanned during