Canberra, June 19 : A new research has determined that climate change due to global warming might wipe out the entire species of whales off the face of the Earth.
According to researchers from the Federal Environment Department, humpback, southern right and minke whale populations could be damaged by a lack of food caused by a change in sea temperatures.
Data from the department's Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) claimed that if the availability of krill - the main diet for "baleen" whales, which filter food from water, deteriorated due to climate change, other species could be wiped out.
Krill is a small shrimp-like animal that is a main source of food for whales, seals and other animals.
In an era of climate change, the ecological effects of baleen whales, and the effects of physical changes on these key predators can no longer be ignored, the researchers said.
The abundance of their primary prey, krill, can vary dramatically over relatively short periods of time and baleen whales that feed on krill have adapted to this variability, they added.
"However, if climate change causes monotonic shifts in either krill distribution and/or abundance, then the extent of this adaptability in the longer term is largely unknown, but could impact reproductive success and ultimately survival," according to researchers.
According to report co-author, AAD researcher Dr Anthony Worby, if ice around Antarctica melts as predicted, krill would lose its natural habit and struggle to survive.
"Because krill is one of the fundamental parts of the Southern Ocean ecosystem, on which whales and penguins and seals and seabirds all feed, obviously there's growing interest in (its) reproductive patterns," Dr Worby told NEWS.com.au.
Director of Southern Cross University's Whale Research Centre, Associate professor Peter Harrison, also said the entire food chain in the Southern Ocean would be a significant factor in stopping whale populations to recover from whaling.
"It is very clear that there is a significant risk to cetacean species," said Dr Harrison.
According to CSIRO marine biologist Dr Elvira Poloczanska, the risk of whales dying because of climate change was "a valid concern".
"I'm not quite sure there's much more (alternative foods) available for whales in the Southern Ocean," he said.
According to the research, the full extent of future damage to whales may not be known for many years, but it was a matter of urgency to find out before it was too late.
"If the sea ice environment changes in future and if this is associated with changes in oceanic circulation, then this will undoubtedly affect the ecosystems on which predators such as baleen whales depend," said the researchers.