Some whales travel about 20.000 kilometres every year and scientific community has always wondered about their annual migration. It has now turned out that whales swim across oceans to maintain a healthy skin.
The humpbacks, blue whales, sperm whales and killer whales travel about 20,000 km every year between polar waters (feeding grounds) and warmer seas. Earlier researchers believed that whales travelled to the tropics for giving birth after feeding in the waters of Arctic and Antarctic.
Marine ecologist at Oregon State University Robert Pitman and his team has now found that the whales migrate to warm waters for maintaining a healthy skin.
They installed 62 satellite tags on four types of killer whales that inhabited Antarctic waters. While tracking the whales, the researchers found that some of the whales travelled about 10,000 Km to western South Atlantic Ocean but they did not travel for giving birth.
The researchers found that whales also shed outer skin cells just like all animals. Pitman said that the humpback whales migrating up Australia’s eastern coast could be traced by following their trail of epidermal cells that they shed. The study published in Marine Mammal Science said that the killer whales diverted blood flow away from their skin.
This led to a slowdown in skin cell regeneration and this drove the whales to warmer waters. Here, the whales could undergo molting, a process wherein old skin cells are shed.
The researchers said that migration to warm waters help a whale to revive their skin metabolism. This is why whales migrate, the study said.