Humpback microbiome linked to seasonal, environmental changes

phys.org | 2/14/2018 | Staff
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The study, which is the largest-ever of the whale microbiome, shows that monitoring whales' skin microbes could offer a way to assess their health and nutrition over different seasons and environmental circumstances, and also to detect how they are affected by climate change and human-caused impacts on ocean ecosystems. The paper published Feb. 14, 2018, in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology. Credit: David W. Johnston, Duke University. The research was authorized by NOAA permit #808-735 and Antarctic Conservation Act permit #2009-14.

Just like with humans, the skin on marine mammals serves as an important line of defense against pathogens in their environment. A new study sheds light on the skin microbiome—a group of microorganisms that live on skin—in healthy humpback whales, which could aid in future efforts to monitor their health.

Researchers - Woods - Hole - Oceanographic - Institution

Researchers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), Duke University, and the University of California, Santa Cruz, analyzed bacteria on skin samples collected in early summer from 89 healthy humpback whales in waters off the Western Antarctic Peninsula. Nearly all had six core communities of bacteria living on their skin. By late summer, after the whales had been feeding and gained weight, the scientists found that four new groups of bacteria emerged and joined the microbiome on almost all the animals.

The study, which is the largest-ever of the whale microbiome, shows that monitoring whales' skin microbes could offer a way to assess their health and nutrition over different seasons and environmental circumstances, and also to detect how they are affected by climate change and human-caused impacts on ocean ecosystems. The paper published February 14, 2018, in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

Humpback - Whales - Species - Studies - Ocean

"Humpback whales are a particularly interesting species for microbiome studies because they are found in every ocean," says lead author K.C. Bierlich, a...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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