Narwhals to check sea temperatures

May 4, 2007

Scientists are set to a recruit a different sort of research assistant to help them plumb the depths of the icy seas.

Marine biologists at the University of Washington and the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources plan to fit satellite transmitters to narwhals to send back data on temperatures in the seas between Greenland and Canada.

The winter seas are clogged with ice and are impassable to ships, so little data has been collected before. But the whales, known for their unicorn-like horn (which is actually a modified tooth), thrive in these conditions.

Kristin Laidre of Washington and Mads Peter Heide-Jorgensen of the Greenland Institute will catch eight to ten narwhals and fit the satellite devices to their backs. Three of the whales captured last summer are sending back data.

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