For scientists like Lemos, fecal samples are invaluable because they reveal what whales’ body condition alone cannot – what happens with hormones.
In total, Lemos collected more than 70 samples from 36 gray whales. The majority had higher levels of T3 and cortisol, which matches environmental data revealing changes that may have interfered with the whales’ ability to find food.
More monitoring, like this one, is urgently needed to better understand the challenges whales face in today’s rapidly changing environment – a fact that has become more evident in recent years. after hundreds of gray whales stranded.
“It is extremely important to assess the physiological state of this population simultaneously with environmental data to identify the potential causes of unusual and tragic events like this,” Lemos said. “This information can help us develop better conservation strategies to protect the species.”
The results were published in Marine mammal science.
The research was conducted when Lemos was a doctoral student at Oregon State University and received financial support from the NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service Office of Science and Technology Ocean Acoustics program, Oregon Sea Grant program development funds, and the ‘Oregon State University Marine Mammal Institute. . Lemos joined the CRF this fall as an Emeritus Postdoctoral Fellow at the College of Arts, Science and Education.