Wednesday 16 April 2014
News updated at 1:12 PM IST
Weather
Max: 34°C
Min : 22.7°C
In Bangalore
Sunny day

Whales get a tan too!

London, Aug 30, 2013 (PTI)
File - AP, representation only

Whales show increase in their skin pigment in response to sunshine and get a 'tan' just like humans, scientists have found.

Some species of whales get darker with sun exposure, incurring DNA damage in their skin and just like humans, they also accumulate damage to the cells in the skin as they get older, researchers said.

Experts from Newcastle University, UK were called in after marine biologists in Mexico noticed an increasing number of whales in the area had blistered skin.

Analysing samples from three types of whales - blue, sperm and fin - they worked together to study the changes in the whale skin after their annual migration to sunnier climes.

Over three years, the team of marine biologists from Trent University, Canada and Universities in La Paz and Queretaro, Mexico, took skin samples from the backs of three species of whales during their annual migration.

Occurring between February and April the whales move to the sunnier Gulf of California, along the northwest coast of Mexico.

Blue whales, the jumbo-jet sized giants, have a very pale pigmentation. During migration time the team found a seasonal change with the pigment in their skin increasing as well as mitochondrial DNA damage.

This internal damage to the mitochondria, the engines of the cells, is caused by UV exposure and is what is found in sunburned human skin.

Sperm whales with their distinctive rounded foreheads have a darker pigmentation, also migrate between February and April to the Gulf of California, but have a different lifestyle. They spend long periods at the surface between feeds and are therefore, exposed to more sun and UV.

The scientists found the sperm whales had a different mechanism for protecting themselves from the sun, triggering a stress response in their genes.

"We saw for the first time evidence of genotoxic pathways being activated in the cells of the whales - this is similar to the damage response caused by free radicals in human skin which is our protective mechanism against sun damage," said Amy Bowman, a Newcastle University researcher.

In contrast, the darkest whales, the deeply pigmented fin whales, were found to be resistant to sun damage showing the lowest prevalence of sunburn lesions in their skin.

"We need to investigate further what is happening, if we are already seeing blistered skin in the whales caused by UV damage then we want to know whether this could develop into skin cancer and therefore serve as an early warning system," said Mark Birch-Machin, Professor of Molecular Dermatology at Newcastle University and joint senior author of the paper.

The research was published in the journal Scientific Reports. 


Go to Top

Photo Gallery
US actress Emma Stone poses for the media during the Germany premiere of the movie 'The Amazing ...

US actress Emma Stone poses for the media during the Germany premiere of the movie 'The Amazing ...

2013 Boston Marathon bombing survivor Erika Brannock, a pre-school teacher from the Baltimore ...

2013 Boston Marathon bombing survivor Erika Brannock, a pre-school teacher from the Baltimore ...

Family members and survivors of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing walk down Boylston Street for a rem

Family members and survivors of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing walk down Boylston Street for a rem

An injured passenger who was on a sinking ship, is rescued by South Korean maritime policemen ...

An injured passenger who was on a sinking ship, is rescued by South Korean maritime policemen ...

A passenger is rescued by South Korean maritime policemen from a sinking ship in the sea off ...

A passenger is rescued by South Korean maritime policemen from a sinking ship in the sea off ...

South Korea rescue helicopters fly over to rescue passengers from passenger ship Sewol ...

South Korea rescue helicopters fly over to rescue passengers from passenger ship Sewol ...

South Korean rescue helicopters fly over a South Korean passenger ship, trying to rescue ...

South Korean rescue helicopters fly over a South Korean passenger ship, trying to rescue ...

Britain's Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge meets with a girl during a walkabout in the Civic Square...

Britain's Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge meets with a girl during a walkabout in the Civic Square...

Britain's Prince William carries Prince George with his wife Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge ...

Britain's Prince William carries Prince George with his wife Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge ...

This multiple-exposure composite photo of the moon was made beginning at 1 a.m., CDT, Tuesday ...

This multiple-exposure composite photo of the moon was made beginning at 1 a.m., CDT, Tuesday ...

Copyright 2014, The Printers (Mysore) Private Ltd., 75, M.G Road, Post Box 5331, Bangalore - 560001
Tel: +91 (80) 25880000 Fax No. +91 (80) 25880523