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Hitchhikers: cost-free Rides ~ above Gray Whales Reading and Writing relationships Look in ~ those barnacles! picture Keith Jones Gray whales are more heavily infested v a greater range of parasites and hitchhikers than any type of other cetacean. Imagine transferring a load of hitchhikers top top your ago that can weigh numerous hundred pounds! Gray whales do this all their lives. Who"s riding, and also why? big Batches of Barnacles Those patchy white point out you see on gray whales room barnacles. Grays carry heavy tons of these freeloaders. The barnacles are simply along for the ride. They don"t damage the whales or feeding on the whales, prefer true parasites do. Barnacles don"t serve any type of obvious advantage to the whales, yet they give valuable lice a location to cave onto the whale without acquiring washed away by water. Barnacles discover the slow-swimming gray whale a great ride with nutrient-rich ocean waters. photograph Keith Jones together larvae, the whale barnacles swim freely in the ocean. However they time their reproduction therefore the larvae space swimming in the water the the nursery lagoons once the infant whales space born. Then the larvae run aboard the whales arriving in the lagoons--as well as the newborn calves—to start their resides as hitchhikers.The most typical barnacles ~ above gray whales are host-specific, which method they occur on no other whales. One type of barnacle, Cryptolepas rhachianecti, attaches just to gray whales. As soon as this kind of tiny crustacean has worked out on "its own" gray, the barnacle security its whole life hanging onto the whale. Life is an excellent if you"re a barnacle. Snug within their difficult limestone shells, the barnacles stick the end feather feet come comb the sea and also capture plankton and also other food because that themselves together the whales swim progressively along. Together the young whales grow, the barnacle clusters thrive too. Slowly the barnacles form large, hard white colonies. The colonies appear as whitish patches, specifically on the whale"s head, flippers, earlier and tail flukes. Whale biologist look at the pattern of barnacle swarm in order come tell separation, personal, instance grays apart. This is feasible because no 2 barnacle clusters, like no two human"s fingerprints, are alike! (See much more about barnacles here.) A Look in ~ Lice Whale lice space another form of whale hitchhiker. Unequal barnacles, lice are true parasites. They feed on gray whale skin and also damaged tissue. The lice gather roughly open wounds or scars. Watch Photo. Whale lice may spread from mother whales to their calves throughout birth, nursing, or various other bodily contact. Up to 1000 of this parasites have been uncovered on a single gray whale. Luckily because that the lice-infested whales, various other creatures seek the lice. Topsmelt space silvery fish that school in the breeding lagoons. Generally they feeding on naval plants, small shrimps and other miniscule creatures the the lagoons. However when the whales are around, the topsmelt dine top top the whales. How? schools of these tiny fish choose at the barnacles and also whale lice crusting up a whale"s skin. Topsmelt groom whales in the calving lagoons. Through ridding the whales of some of their parasites and old, flaky skin, topsmelt may be helping to cut down the resistance, or drag, that grays create as their huge bodies relocate through the water. The whales have actually a smoother ride and the topsmelt groomers get protein-rich food.

shot This! Journaling concerns and activity Why carry out you think gray whales have more hitchhikers than any kind of other whales? (Look for ideas in the message above.) how would you define the connection in between the whale, the whale lice and also the barnacles? If you were a gray whale biologist make the efforts to number out i m sorry whale is which,you"d have actually to have the ability to spot distinctions in the distinct clusters of barnacles on every whale. Provide it a try! Dr.

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Wilhelm Megill offers you step-by-step help, with several photos for exercise in the lesson: who is the Whale? Gray Whale picture ID Matching.