London: A study from the University of London has found that even whales suffer the effects of exposure to strong UV rays, such as blisters and sunburns.
The scientists studied more than 150 whales in the Gulf of California and found that the whales had blisters that were caused by sun damage.
The study concluded that darker skinned whales showed fewer signs of sun damage because just like humans, they have more cells that produce a dark brown pigment called melanin.
Laura Martinez-Levasseur explained that whales were good models for this because "they need to come to the surface to breathe air, to socialise and to feed their young, meaning that they are frequently exposed to the full force of the sun," reports the BBC.
"The increase in skin damage seen in blue whales is a matter of concern, but at this stage it is not clear what is causing this increase. A likely candidate is rising ultraviolet radiation as a result of either ozone depletion, or a change in the level of cloud cover,” she said.
This study showed no signs of skin cancer in the whales, but the team are going on to find out how the whales respond to sun damage at a genetic level.
Martinez-Levasseur said, "I hope this will also open the door for other researchers to look into the effects of sun damage on wildlife."
The report appears in the Royal Society journal, Proceedings B.
First Published: Wednesday, November 10, 2010, 17:51