Painful sunburns are not only confined to humans. According to a report published by British and Mexican researchers who’ve been studying the effects of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation on whales in the Gulf of California, some whale species have been showing signs of severe sunburn that is likely to be caused by the thinning ozone layer.
Whales have to spend a considerable amount of time on the surface to breathe air, to socialize and to feed their young. Whales do not have hair, fur or feathers or other forms of sunburn protection mechanisms, which tend to escalate the problem in them.
For conducting the research, scientists have studied about 150 whales taking photographs and small skin samples from the whales’ hides. Blisters have been found in about half of these whales from sun damage. The study’s lead researcher, Laura Martinez-Levasseur of the University of London, told the Associated Press, “Humans can put on clothes or sunglasses — whales can’t.”
The pace at which the blisters are increasing in the whales is alarming. Whales, just like humans, produce more pigment in their skin to protect them from sun burn, which makes the skin dark and tanned. As such, darker-skinned fin whales are found to have fewer lesions and evidence of sunburn than their pale-skinned relatives, blue whales. This is very comparable to the varying skin color of the humans due to their adaptation to the intensity of the sunlight.
The study is conducted at the Gulf of California, which is situated in tropical latitudes, where sun radiation is many times higher compared to the mid-latitude zones.
This article is important as it brings to highlight the increasing intensity of the problem that the human beings are facing in relation to the depleting ozone layer. It is a signal that human beings should act with urgency to try and reduce the environmental stress levels by reducing contaminants and pollution.
Frayer, L. (2010, November 10). Study: Whales Get Burned as Ozone Layer Thins. Retrieved October 12, 2011, from The AOLNews website: http://www.aolnews.com/2010/11/10/study-whales-get-sunburned-as-ozone-layer-thins/
Viegas, J. (2010, November 9). WHALES SUFFERING FROM SUNBURN. Retrieved October 12, 2011, from Discovery News: http://news.discovery.com/animals/whales-sunburn-ozone.html