Whales Face 'Serious' Sunburn Threat

Depleted ozone may be risk for already-endangered animals
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 10, 2010 11:31 AM CST
Whales Face 'Serious' Sunburn Threat
A blue whale comes to the surface along the california coast near Palos Verdes, Calif., Thursday, Sept. 2, 2010.   (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

(Newser) – Whales off the coast of Mexico seem to be getting bad sunburns, and scientists say ozone damage may be why. To survive, whales have to spend long periods on the ocean’s surface, and without clothes, fur, or feathers, they’re basically “sunbathing naked,” the AP notes. The result: skin lesions and dead cell patterns that are linked to sun exposure, a study finds.

Scientists are still debating how much the ozone, which helps block ultraviolet rays, has recovered since CFC emissions were limited. If its depletion is contributing to cancer among the whales, “this could be a serious threat,” says a scientist. And it would add to existing woes: the species studied are all currently endangered or vulnerable.
(Read more blue whale stories.)

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