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8 animals helping humans save the planet

By: Sidney Stevens on Nov. 18, 2011, 8:37 a.m.
Aerial shot of a narwhal swimming

Photo: Gazprom Neft PJSC/Wikimedia Commons [CC by SA-4.0]

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Looking for evidence of climate change can be tough going when you’re trying to measure winter ocean temperatures in the frigid, ice-choked arctic waters off Greenland. That’s why researchers are turning to some veteran deep-sea divers for help. Outfitted with thermometers and small satellite transmitters, 14 narwhals — tusked arctic whales known to dive more than a mile below the ocean surface — have helped University of Washington scientists document that waters in the center of Baffin Bay are some 0.9 degrees C warmer than previously estimated. Researchers are counting on these “unicorns of the sea” to continue aiding them in the development of more accurate climate models.