Antarctic blue whales, new research

This video is called Worlds Largest Blue Whale colony – Discovered in Sri Lanka.

From Wildlife Extra:

2 Blue whales given satellite tags in the Antarctic

New acoustic devices prove successful for tracking Blue whales

March 2013. A recent research expedition to the Antarctic, using acoustic devices to locate Blue whales, has proved very successful. By using sound rather than sight to initially detect the whales, scientists significantly improved the likelihood of finding and counting whales in the vast Southern Ocean. The research is a core part of an Australian-led international project to estimate the abundance, distribution and behaviour of the species that was decimated in the early 1900s when industrial whaling killed approximately 250,000 animals.

The sonobuoys allowed researchers to record more than 500 hours of audio including more than 20,000 blue whale vocalisations. Two Blue whales were given satellite tags to enable scientists to track their migration, which, it is hoped, will provide vital information on their behaviour and biology.

The 2013 expedition achievements included:

626 hours of acoustic recordings in the sample area; 26,545 calls of Antarctic blue whale were analysed in real time; 43 acoustic groups were targeted, with an 85% success rate.
Identification of 57 individual Antarctic blue whales using photos, plus 11 pygmy blue whales. Identification of 23 individual Antarctic blue whales using biopsy samples, plus 8 humpback whales.
Satellite tags on 2 Antarctic blue whales; both transmitting locations for more than 15 days so far.
100 specimens of Antarctic krill collected for genetics research.

Non-lethal techniques

These statistics do not tell the whole story. Importantly this voyage demonstrated a suite of non-lethal techniques, including acoustic tracking, satellite tagging, photographic and genetic identification, which can be used to study the elusive Antarctic blue whales. The information gathered on this voyage will go towards answering the big question about just how many of these animals remain in the oceans today.

Once the ship has reached New Zealand, the real work begins in analysing the huge data set collected over the past seven weeks.

A spokesman for the crew said “The offices we go back to won’t heave with each wave and the outlook will be less exhilarating, but the work will be equally satisfying and worthwhile. Papers have to be prepared for the International Whaling Commission meeting in Korea in June and the methods, tested and proven on this voyage, will be communicated to our colleagues in the Southern Ocean Research Partnership.”

Cormorants nesting in the snow

This video is called Blue-eyed cormorants on the Antarctic Peninsula.

In the Antarctic, cormorants often nest in the snow. They are blue-eyed cormorants.

Zwanenwater cormorants

In the northern hemisphere, in the Netherlands, great cormorants have already started to nest in the wintry weather.

This photo by Erik Menkveld is from the Zwanenwater nature reserve.

Antarctic blue whale new research

This video says about itself:

Mar 23, 2010

Me (Caitlyn/Genora100) and My BFF (Rachel/ilovesilverherocks, have to do a project on an Antarctic animal! we chose the blue whale!

From Wildlife Extra:

Researchers leave port to search for and tag Blue whales in Antarctica

Voyage in search of the world’s largest creature

January 2013. A team of international whale researchers have sailed from Hobart in search of the biggest creature on Earth, the Antarctic blue whale. The scientists from Australia, United States, United Kingdom, Chile and New Zealand, will use newly-developed passive acoustic sonobuoy methods to track and locate the elusive animals across hundreds of kilometres in the Southern Ocean.

Antarctic Blue Whale Project

Australian Environment Minister Tony Burke said this is the inaugural voyage of the Antarctic Blue Whale Project which aims to estimate the abundance, distribution and behaviour of the species.

Mr Burke said “The Antarctic blue whale can grow to over 30 metres in length and weigh up to 180 tonnes, its tongue alone is heavier than an elephant and its heart is as big as a small car. Even the largest dinosaur was smaller than the blue whale. Despite their colossal size we know very little about the animals, including where they breed and feed, and how many remain in our oceans today after industrial whaling slaughtered more than 340,000 of them in the early 1900s.”

The researchers will target areas thought to be frequented by the blue whales along the ice edge west of the Ross Sea. If survey methods are successful in locating the whales, photographs of the animals’ flanks and biopsy samples will be taken to build individual sighting histories that will assist in estimating population size.

Satellite tags

The 18-strong team will also work from small boats in freezing Antarctic conditions to deploy satellite tags on the animals.

Not necessary to kill whales for research – Unlike Japan

Burke added “We then aim to be able to track their movements within their Antarctic feeding grounds and potentially further north to their breeding areas. This research shows, in contrast to Japan’s so called “scientific whaling” program, that you don’t have to kill these majestic creatures to get valuable information about them.”

The project is a flagship program of the international Southern Ocean Research Partnership (SORP) involving ten countries – Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Chile, France, Germany, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa and the United States. SORP was initiated by Australia through the International Whaling Commission (IWC) to promote non-lethal research in the Southern Ocean.

“Today the Antarctic blue whale is classified as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and is of global interest as one of the most at risk baleen whale species in the Southern Ocean,” Mr Burke said.

“The information gathered in this research will be supplied to the IWC to assist in the conservation and recovery of this iconic species.”

Adelie penguin feeding, new research

This video shows penguin cam images of Adelie penguins hunting krill in Antarctica.

From the BBC:

21 January 2013 Last updated at 20:02

Cameras reveal penguins’ efficient hunting techniques

Intimate details of Adelie penguin feeding behaviour have been filmed by Japanese scientists.

Using video cameras and accelerometers attached to free-swimming penguins, researchers have gained a unique insight into the birds’ hunting techniques.

Adelie penguins adopted different strategies depending on whether they were hunting fish or krill.

The findings are published in the journal PNAS.

Lead scientist Dr Yuuki Watanabe from the National Institute of Polar Research in Tokyo, Japan, told BBC Nature: “Foraging is the most basic activity of animals, but details of foraging behaviour are poorly known, especially in marine animals.”

Although previous studies had examined Adelie penguin’s (Pygoscelis adeliae) foraging style using video apparatus or sensor technology, results were limited.

“Previously some researchers attached video cameras to marine animals to observe their foraging behaviour, but this was just a few hours.”

“In other studies, researchers attached various sensors to marine animals to record indirect signals of prey capture. This method lasted for long periods, but has never been validated in the field,” said Dr Watanabe.

To overcome these difficulties, the Japanese scientists decided to use a combination of video footage and indirect signals.

Indirect signals include acceleration of the head, temperature changes in the digestive tract or beak opening movements, all of which indicate that feeding may have occurred.

Modern technologies mean that accelerometers are small enough for the scientists to attach two accelerators to each penguin – one on the head and another on the back.

“We recorded both movies and indirect signals, successfully validating the indirect signals using video footage,” explained Dr Watanabe.

“We assumed that penguins move their heads relative to their body when they capture prey; this was confirmed by the footage.”

Using these methods the team was able to ascertain when and how the penguins were feeding.

Fast food

With the results of the combined technologies, scientists were able to draw further conclusions about the Adelie penguins’ feeding strategy.

The penguins’ foraging area is largely covered by marine ice and their primary food sources include two species of krill and Pagothenia borchgrevinki – a fish whose blood contains antifreeze proteins.

The Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) is a shrimp-like crustacean that grows to approximately 6cm long. Antarctic coastal krill (E. crystallorophias) lives farther south than any other species of krill.

Krill is an important part of the Antarctic ecosystem, with around half of its biomass being consumed annually by marine predators such as penguins, squid, whales and fish.

When capturing krill, the penguins swam upward then changed direction at the point of predation, making darting movements with their head.

The team discovered that Adelie penguins can catch krill at a rate of up to two krill per second, despite krill displaying escape behaviours.

Furthermore the researchers found that the camouflage defence of the fish P. borchgrevinki didn’t work with foraging Adelie penguins.

The penguins were regularly able to capture the fish from below – the direction from which the fish is camouflaged against the backdrop of marine ice.

Dr Watanabe said: “I was surprised by how the penguins repeatedly captured P. borchgrevinki underneath the sea ice. This fish is known to be well camouflaged.”

The technology used to support the findings has a wider application for further study. Dr Watanabe commented, “Our method can be applied to many marine animals to understand the spatial and temporal variability of foraging behaviour.”

April 2013.  Elaine Heron took these images of an apparently leucistic penguin on the Antarctic Peninsula that she saw in February this year. This is not the first leucistic Adelie penguin that we have had reported to us. We also have an image of a bird that was seen and photographed in 1963 on Avian Island, off Adelaide Island on the Antarctic Peninsula in 1963, near the British Antarctic Survey Base by reader Mike Fleet: here.

To get to the Cape Royds penguin colony, home to several thousand googly-eyed Adélie penguins, you can either make the bone-chilling two-hour snowmobile drive over the sea ice from McMurdo Station, or if weather and winds permit, zip over in 10 minutes by helicopter. Either way, you’ll pass hundreds of seals sprawled slug-like on the ice; pass through the shadow of the volcano Mount Erebus, hunched and smoking; and if you’re lucky, spot an elegant snow petrel gliding by: here.

Very Inspiring Blogger award, thanks II 4S Aopmrdd!


After all the bloggers who were so kind to nominate Dear Kitty. Some blog for awards, today another award.

Thank so very much II 4S Aopmrdd,  for nominating me for the Very Inspiring Blogger award!

The rules are to thank and link back to the blogger which has nominated you, then post the award logo to your blog, write a post on the nomination and nominate 15 other very inspiring bloggers. Notify them; and tell 7 things about yourself.

Seven things about myself:

1. In the Antarctic, I saw a humpback whale jumping out of the sea.

2. On that journey, I also saw, fleetingly, another whale. Probably a minke whale.

3. From the ferry from Turkey to Lesbos island in Greece, I saw common bottlenose dolphins.

4. I saw two common porpoises on Schiermonnikoog island in the Netherlands.

5. Unfortunately, these beached porpoises were dead.

6. On Texel island outside Ecomare museum, I saw a sperm whale … well, a model of a sperm whale :)

7. In front of Ecomare museum, I saw a “hotel” for solitary bees and other insects, made of old bottles, straw, etc.

Here come my fifteen nominees:

1. The Illustrious Peacock

2. Screwiness-o-rama

3. Corina Lăzărescu

4. Lila’s Twist

5. Sherbet and Sparkles

6. Daina’s Book

7. vienaqui

8. dlightblog

9. Elisa Ruland

10. twng32

11. Before I Forget

12. Mind Games

13. Brandon Bored

14. Serendipity

15. LilyPetal

Antarctic marine wildlife threatened

This video is called Antarctic Wildlife With Tour Guide Alex Burridge.

From the BBC:

25 November 2012 Last updated at 18:13

Antarctic marine wildlife is under threat, study finds

Marine snails in seas around Antarctica are being affected by ocean acidification, scientists have found.

An international team of researchers found that the snails’ shells are being corroded.

Experts says the findings are significant for predicting the future impact of ocean acidification on marine life.

The results of the study are published in the journal Nature Geoscience.

The marine snails, called “pteropods“, are an important link in the oceanic food chain as well as a good indicator of ecosystem health.

“They are a major grazer of phytoplankton and… a key prey item of a number of higher predators – larger plankton, fish, seabirds, whales,” said Dr Geraint Tarling, Head of Ocean Ecosystems at the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and co-author of the report.

The study was a combined project involving researchers from the BAS, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the US Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the University of East Anglia‘s school of Environmental Sciences.

Ocean acidification is a result of burning fossil fuels: some of the additional carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is absorbed into oceans.

This process alters the chemistry of the water, making it more acidic.

See also here.

Leopard seal food, new research

This video says about itself:

Oct 29, 2012 by Nature Newsteam

Leopard seals can suck up prey, like fish or krill, and sieve the food out of the water using specialized teeth. Read more:

From Discover Magazine:

Leopard seals suck

“It is an awe-inspiring experience to be faced with a 3-metre-long, 500 kilogram predator, the size of a racehorse, as it launches itself out of the water and slides on its belly for a couple of seconds, coming to a halt barely a metre away from where I stood, without any barrier between me and it.”

That was how Erich Fitzgerald met Sabine the leopard seal.

Leopard seals are like the lions of the Antarctic. They are huge, powerful predators, known for their brutal killing strategy. They bite penguins and seal pups with their big canines, and thrash them onto the surface of the water to flay and dismember their prey.

But Fitzgerald, David Hocking and Alistair Evans have shown that these predators can take smaller prey in a very different way. They suck krill and small fish into their mouths and sieve them in the manner of whales, by passing their mouthfuls of water through tightly interlocking teeth. It’s astonishing behaviour that allows them to dine from the top and bottom of the food chain. As Fitzgerald told me: “This is equivalent to a lion hunting down zebras, but also regularly feasting on ants or termites.

I’ve written about the story for Nature News. Head over there for the full details.