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Climate Change Is Causing Narwhals to Change Migration Patterns

New research indicates that the whales and other animals may be able to adjust their behavior to avoid some impacts of rising temperatures.

Narwhals in an ice break

Narwhals in an ice break

Photographer: Flip Nicklin/ Minden Pictures/Minden Pictures RM

Scientists have found that narwhals are altering their steadfast migration patterns in response to climate change, offering some hope that the tusked whales and other species may be able to adapt to a rapidly warming Arctic.

Researchers analyzed satellite tracking data from 40 narwhals that had been tagged between 1997 and 2018. They determined that with sea ice forming later in the year due to rising temperatures, the ice-dependent whales have delayed migrating to their deep-ocean winter feeding grounds by 10 days per decade. The marine mammals are also taking longer to make the 900-mile (1,500-kilometer) journey from the coastal areas of the Canadian Arctic where they spend the summer.