Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark.

[[title_reg]]

Please enter the name you would like to appear on your comments. (It doesn’t have to be your real name - but nothing rude please, we are a polite bunch!) Use a combination of eight or more characters that includes an upper and lower case character, and a number.

By registering with [[site_name]] you agree to our Terms and Conditions and our Privacy Policy

Or sign up with

Facebook Google

[[content_reg_complete]]

[[title_login]]

Or login with

Forgotten your password? Reset it

[[title]]

Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

Comparing whale and dolphin DNA with cows could be vital for conservation, according to Aberdeen University research

Aberdeen Beach - Picture of Porpoise / Dolphins outside Aberdeen Harbour.

Picture by Kenny Elrick     19/05/2020
Aberdeen Beach - Picture of Porpoise / Dolphins outside Aberdeen Harbour. Picture by Kenny Elrick 19/05/2020

Studying the DNA differences between whales and cows could be key to protecting marine mammals from human threats.

In a new publication in the scientific journal Conservation Physiology, academics from Aberdeen University, along with colleagues from the Technical University of Denmark (DTU), have contrasted the metabolism of sea-faring mammals against their relatives on dry land.

Davina Derous, from Aberdeen University’s school of biological sciences, explained that because of the unique adaptions marine mammals have developed since they diverged from those living on land millions of years ago, they face different challenges brought about by disturbance from humanity.

She said: “Many people may not realise that dolphins and whales are close relatives of land mammals such as cows and sheep.

“Around 53 million years ago their ancestors re-entered the oceans and evolved to become the fully aquatic mammals we know today.

“It is not just the shape of their body that changed during these adaptations to marine life, but also their physiology.

“Scientists now have access to many genomes of whales and dolphins and therefore we could study how these changes accumulated and whether changes across many genes led to changes in the way their metabolism works.

“We did this by comparing the sequences of genes associated with energy metabolism in dolphins and whales and in their land-based relatives.

“We found that their genes have adapted to cope with a low glucose diet; to overcome the damaging effects caused by the lack of oxygen during diving, and that the way fat storage signals energy state to the rest of the body differs drastically compared to land mammals.”

Ms Derous explained the thick layers of blubber that whales and dolphins have developed means they access fat storage in a different way to their cousins on land.

The Aberdeen University researcher said the impact of man’s activities at sea like shipping, tourism, offshore work and naval exercises could have an even more complicated impact on gentle marine mammals and their ability to bring up young than previously thought.

She added: “Dolphins and whales have evolved to have this really thick layer of fat right under their skin called blubber and the way they use up that fat storage when food is limited might be completely different to land mammals.

“That is because blubber also functions as a layer of insulation in the cold sea water and to help them float and dive, and therefore they cannot use all of it as an energy fuel.

“They might have what we consider a normal amount of fat, but this might not reflect what is happening below the surface on a cell level.

“We conclude that the way reproductive investment is going to be affected by foraging disruptions is likely more complex than we think and reduced reproductive investment may happen earlier than we think in some cases.”

David Lusseau from DTU added: “This research using new approaches of studying dolphins and whales helps us to gain some fundamental insights about the way energy metabolism works in them.

“It turns out it has implications for the way we assess the potential conservation impacts of disturbances caused by human activities at sea, for example, measuring their fat layer to see how healthy they are.

“There are a number of marine mammal species that we now know are threatened by human disturbances and so this fundamental physiological work is going to help us better assess how we can mitigate it and estimate what might be safe levels of exposure.”

Already a subscriber? Sign in

[[title]]

[[text]]