Whale ‘snot’ study shows poorer health in migration
UNSW Sydney researchers collected and tested samples of humpback whale "snot" – similar to mucus from a human nose – and found severely depleted microbial diversity and richness during the whales' return journey south, indicating the whales were likely in poorer health than when their migration started.
East Australian humpback whales complete, on average, an arduous 8000-kilometre round trip between Antarctica and Queensland from May to November each year, fasting for most of their journey.
Lead author Dr Catharina Vendl, UNSW Science researcher, said the study, published in Scientific Reports in July, provided the first evidence whales’ airway microbiota was a potential indicator of the animal’s overall health.
Microbial diversity accounts for the wide array of microorganisms – the smallest forms of life.