Blue whales’ lives saved by new technology?


This video is called Why are blue whales so enormous? – Asha de Vos.

From Wildlife Extra:

New technology could save blue whales from being hit by ships

Scientists from the University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Science are developing a near real-time computer model that predicts where endangered blue whales will gather as they move around the Pacific ocean off California, reports digital news site, TakePart.

Ultimately this technology will mean that ships can be notified of the presence of whales and the chances of a collision will be minimised.

Collisions with cargo ships are the primary threat to endangered blue whales. In 2007, four blues were killed, likely by ship strikes, in or near the Santa Barbara Channel.

In 2010, five whales, including two blues, were killed in the San Francisco area and elsewhere along the north-central California coast.

Scientists and the shipping industry have been looking for ways to reduce the number of collisions, but they have had little solid data on the whales’ whereabouts until now.

The project merges the past movements of satellite-tagged blue whales with current environmental conditions off the California coast that influence where the whales travel.

In 1993, Ladd Irvine, a marine mammal ecologist at Oregon State University’s Marine Mammal Institute, and his colleagues began fixing satellite tags to blue whales off the California coast.

By 2008, they had tagged 171 blue whales, which they watched swim to the Gulf of Alaska and the southern tip of Baja, Mexico. In the summer and early autumn, the whales returned to the California coast, feeding on krill before migrating south for the winter.

Near Los Angeles and San Francisco, shipping lanes crisscross these key feeding grounds.

“We got a nice detailed look of where the whales spend their time in US waters from year to year and the timing of when they are present and when they leave,” said Irvine.

“It happened that the two most heavily used areas were crossed by these shipping lanes.”

Most of the tags stayed with the whales for two or three months, but one whale held on to its transmitter for more than 500 days, giving the researchers a unique look at its annual route.

Whale No 3300840 followed its prey over the summer season and returned to several spots within a week of having been there the previous year.

Adding this data to satellite-monitored environmental data – including sea surface temperature, chlorophyll concentration (which reduced food for whales), and upwelling (where nutrient-rich waters move closer to the surface) – could reveal more precisely where and when blue whales will congregate along the shipping routes.

If the model forecasts a whale hot spot, ships could be rerouted or their speeds reduced to avoid collisions.

Helen Bailey, the marine mammal specialist leading the Maryland study, says this information is invaluable.

“We’ll be able to say, given the current conditions, what is a whale hot spot,” she said. “The hot spot might only coincide with the shipping lane a few months of the year. If the shipping lanes could be modified, it would reduce the risk of a whale strike.

“Only three can be killed per year to keep the population sustainable, and anytime we hear a number close to that is reason for concern because it’s probably a large underestimate.”

About 2,500 blue whales live in the North Pacific and another 500 in the North Atlantic. Estimates suggest the global population of blue whales is between 10,000 and 25,000.

Since 1900, the blue whale population has declined or remained flat, even though it is a protected species.

The results of the study are timely as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is currently planning a review of shipping lanes in the Southern California area.

“Having more information from the whale perspective helps NOAA look at the broader story to see if there is a way to reduce the risk of strikes,” said Monica DeAngelis, a marine mammal biologist at NOAA.

Commercial whaling was banned almost 30 years ago, but why hasn’t the world’s whale population recovered yet? Here.

Minke whales in the North Sea


This video from Australia is called MEET The MINKE WHALES.

Ecomare museum on Texel island in the Netherlands reports about minke whales, photographed near the Dogger Bank in the North Sea.

Biologists estimate there are about 9,000 minke whales in the North Sea, especially its northern parts.

Research on beached humpback whale in Scotland


This video is called Humpback Whale Shows AMAZING Appreciation After Being Freed From Nets.

From Wildlife Extra:

Scotland’s first full humpback whale post mortem conducted on Mull

The stranded humpack whale is thought to have drowned

Scotland’s first full post mortem of a humpback whale – found dead at Fishnish on the Isle of Mull – has been carried out by veterinary pathologists with the assistance of conservation charity Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust.

The seven-metre, eight-ton animal – believed to be the first humpback whale ever to strand on Mull – was discovered floating close to shore on 25 June, and was craned out of the sea the following evening. The male calf had not recently been feeding and was probably still dependent on its mother.

Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust’s Science and Strandings Officer Dr Conor Ryan, who is an expert on humpback whales, assisted with a post mortem examination with veterinary pathologist Andrew Brownlow of Scottish Rural University College to establish the cause of death.

Preliminary results from the examination were consistent with drowning, although the cause is unclear. “This highly unusual and sad discovery is a reminder that Scotland’s west coast waters are extremely special and host a great variety of marine species, including magnificent and iconic humpback whales – and that conservation action and research are vital for the protection of such remarkable animals,” said Dr Ryan. The whale was hoisted out of the water by crane before the post mortem was conducted.

Humpback whales today face a range of threats including collisions with vessels, entanglement in fishing gear, pollution and reduction in stocks of their prey.

People are encouraged to report sightings and strandings of whales, dolphins, porpoises – collectively known as cetaceans – to the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust at www.hwdt.org or by calling 01688 302620.

Humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) are rarely encountered in the Hebrides but are known to migrate through the region far from shore when travelling between their tropical breeding grounds and Arctic feeding grounds. They were hunted in the Hebrides in the early 1900s, but only 19 were caught during 20 years of hunting – suggesting they had been over-exploited by whalers elsewhere to the north and south of Scotland.

Although sightings are still very rare in UK waters, this species is being observed with increasing regularity in Irish waters. Named after the distinctive hump in front of their small dorsal fin, humpback whales are known for their acrobatic aerial breaching and for complex and beautiful songs performed by males during courtship. Adults can range in length from 12-16 metres and weigh up to 36 tons.

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and Police Scotland are advising wildlife enthusiasts and boat operators to watch how close they get to dolphins, whales and porpoises if they are planning a cetacean-viewing trip this summer: here.

First ever beluga whales in Rhode Island, USA


This video from Canada is called Discover the Beluga Whales at Arctic Watch.

From ABC in the USA:

First ever beluga whale sighting in Rhode Island

Posted: Jul 03, 2014 4:28 PM Updated: Jul 03, 2014 4:28 PM

by Shannon O’Hara

The first ever sighting of beluga whales in Rhode Island were reportedly seen in Naragansett Bay and the Taunton River, according to oceanographer’s from URI.

These creatures normally reside in the arctic region and the closest beluga population to Rhode Island is up near Nova Scotia.

Marine scientist Robert Kenney of URI states that beluga whales are known to travel south, with previous sightings being in Long Island, New Jersey, and occasionally in Cape Cod, but never before in Rhode Island.

A local fisherman in Narragansett Bay first spotted the whale on June 15. Another whale was also spotted that same day in Assonet River, but is believed to be a different beluga. Additionally, a third whale was spotted near Gloucester, Massachusetts

These three whales are not believed to be in danger or unhealthy. Kenney says the whales are “probably getting healthier food than they would in the St. Lawrence, where most belugas carry very high loads of toxic chemicals from eating contaminated fish.”

In collaboration with the Group for Research and Education on Marine Mammals, a Quebec-based non-profit, Kenney is keeping a close monitoring of the whales.

Photos are being taken to investigate if they can match them to known beluga individuals in their photo catalog.

Whales under threat as US approves seismic oil prospecting in Atlantic: here.

Whale-watching in Australia, war in the Falklands


This video from Australia is called Migaloo the White Whale Encounter.

By Peter Frost in Britain:

How to start a war and win an election

Friday 4th July 2014

Whale-watching in Australia leads PETER FROST to a forgotten story of a deception that led to the Falkland’s war

A year or so ago Ann and I spent time in Australia driving down the east coast in a motor-home. Highlight of the trip was watching the many whales from the headlands and beaches.

It was there we heard tales of a pure white humpback whale. It was a hard story to swallow, but the rumours of this great white whale had gone up and down the coast for over 25 years.

Now, it seems, the stories are proved true. Migaloo — his aboriginal name means White Fella — has been spotted and photographed close to Sydney and this has enabled whale scientists to discover a lot more about this amazing animal.

Migaloo is one of the few albino humpbacks in the world. Sadly as an albino he is more susceptible to UV damage in the bright Australian sunshine than darker humpbacks.

Indeed Migaloo watchers are worried about the 28-year-old whale’s health. Healthy humpbacks can live for 50 years but yellow and red patches on Migaloo’s skin suggest he may have skin disease or even cancer.

Humpbacks do bump into each other at play or when jostling for position when mating and it may be this that has caused the whale’s skin damage.

Meanwhile Migaloo is being studied and looked after. Watercraft are not allowed within 500 metres, aircraft no closer than 2,000 feet.

Watching these monarchs of the ocean prompted us to take a look at the history of British and Australian whaling.

We visited the old whaling station ports of Ballina and Byron Bay to learn a little about this huge, if cruel, industry.

The need for food fats in post-war Europe was critical. In the 1950s and 1960s Australia built a huge fleet of ex-wartime wooden Fairmile motor torpedo boats to hunt and kill thousands of whales. The whale oil was almost entirely used for the British margarine trade.

Scottish “Ten pound Pom” Harry Robertson recorded this hard life in song and story and on an amazing website brings this history alive — www.harryrobertson.net.

The Australian whaling fleet also ventured into Antarctic waters as competitors to the vast Scottish whaling company Christian Salvesen which built several hugely profitable whaling stations in the southern oceans — the first in the Falklands in 1907 and then another on the island of South Georgia. Their station at Leith Harbour, South Georgia, was named after the company’s home port in Scotland.

It was to South Georgia that Constantino Davidoff — an Argentinian scrap dealer — came in March 1982. He had a £180,000 contract from Christian Salvesen to dismantle the company’s derelict whaling station.

At the end of 1981 Davidoff had sought approval from the British ambassador in Buenos Aires. He had also spoken to the Falkland Island authorities.

Margaret Thatcher in London thought this might make a great excuse to flex her muscles in the South Atlantic. She declared the scrap metal workers were the advance party of an Argentinian invasion of South Georgia and told the press that the scrap-men had planted the Argentinian flag and were singing the Argentinian national anthem.

Thatcher despatched marines from the Falkland Islands and 39 scrap metal workers were detained. Argentina sent its troops to rescue them and landed in the Falkland Islands.

Two previously friendly countries were at war over a scrap of unwanted land 8,000 miles from London and 900 people would die before Argentina surrendered on June 14 1982.

Thatcher and the Tories would storm home in the 1983 general election and that, of course, was the whole point of the exercise.

In an ultimate irony, British forces contracted Argentinian scrap dealers to clear away the post-war debris of the many Falkland battles.

Marine conservation writing competition for young people


This video is called Earthrace – R.I.P – Tribute.

From Wildlife Extra:

Conservationist Pete Bethune launches a writing competition for young people

New Zealander, Pete Bethune, founder of marine conservation organisation, Earthrace, has set a challenge for all young ocean activists around the world.

His aim is to encourage a growing network of children and young people from around the world who care about preserving and protecting the oceans by launching a writing competition.

First prize is a model remote control replica of Pete’s Earthrace boat which broke the round the world speed record in 2008 but was sunk by Japanese whalers in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary in 2010.

Apart from being a world-record holder for the fastest trip around the world in a powerboat, Pete has become a passionate supporter of marine life conservation as a result of his experiences on that trip. He is the author of two best-selling books, one of which, Whale Warrior, covers his time in Antarctica.

Pete is also the founder of the Earthrace Junior Activists Club, which began in 2008 and is run by Earthrace volunteers Alison Banks, Natalie Borghardt and Junior Activist Captain, 17-year-old Zach Affolter.

There are now over 1,200 young members who all share a passion to help protect the oceans and marine life.

“I can tell from the many letters, emails and messages that I receive from children and young people all over the world that they are as concerned about the state of the oceans as I am,” Pete said. “I hope this challenge will encourage many more young people to really think about what the oceans mean to them and to take actions to help protect them.

“Their words will inspire others of all ages to follow their lead and begin to understand how important marine life and the environment are for all us, whether or not we live near the ocean or not.”

The competition

Pete is asking anyone up to the age of 18 to submit an essay or short story of no more than 500 words based on ‘what the oceans mean to me’.

There are four age categories for the ocean writing challenge: Under 10; 10-12 years, 13-15 years; and 16-18 years.

As well as the main prize of the Earthrace remote control boat, there are more prizes to be won in the shape of a remote control shark, signed copies of Pete’s book Whale Warrior, Junior Activist t-shirts, caps, bumper stickers, signed posters, plush Maui’s dolphin toys and wristbands.

Entries should be sent by email to alison@earthrace.net by the closing date of 31 August 2014.

All entries must include the name of the author, age, email address and mailing address.

All winners will be notified no more than one month after the closing date and the winning entries will be posted on the Earthrace Junior Activist Facebook page and published in a future issue of the Earthrace online magazine, Our Backyard.For more information visit the Earthrace Junior Activists Club page at www.earthraceconservation.org/eco-junior-activist-club.

Big mammals’ teeth, purple mammals’ teeth, more mammals’ teeth


This video from Cornell University in the USA is called Skull detectives: Understanding Mammal Skulls!

From eNature Blog in the USA:

Two Foot Incisors? Purple Teeth? Animal’s Teeth Tell All Sort Of Stories

Posted on Monday, June 16, 2014 by eNature

There’s remarkable variety in the shape, size and number of teeth found in animals—  and in the uses their owners put them to.

Who’s Teeth Are Biggest?

Walruses are famous for their teeth; specifically, the enormous tusks that project from their upper jaws. Both sexes have these tusks. In fact, tusks tend to be longer on female Walruses. And what purpose do these massive teeth serve?

Well, contrary to popular belief, Walruses don’t use their tusks for raking up clams and other food from the ocean bottom. Tusks establish social status, help the Walruses haul themselves onto ice floes, and offer some degree of protection.  Walruses have even been known to use their tusks to hang on the edge of breathing holes in the ice pack … .

Purple Teeth?

Another mammal with unusual teeth is the Sea Otter. It’s not their size, though, that distinguishes a Sea Otter’s teeth but their color: purple.

The color, it seems, is derived from Purple Sea Urchins, a favorite Sea Otter food. Even before they can munch and crunch sea urchins for themselves, baby Sea Otters get purple-stained teeth, presumably from their mother’s milk. Of course, Sea Otters in areas that lack Purple Sea Urchins have white teeth.

Who Has The Most?

The mammals with the most teeth are oceanic dolphins. A single such dolphin can have up to 260 teeth, all cone-shaped and spread evenly between the jaws. Whales that eat fish and squid also have a great number of teeth, usually in both the upper and lower jaws. Sperm Whales, Pygmy Sperm Whale, and Risso’s Dolphin, though, have teeth only in the lower jaw. And the ten species of baleen whales, the largest mammals on Earth, have no teeth at all. Instead, these whales strain their food by means of long baleen plates.

Who’s Got The Least?

The land-based North American mammals with the fewest teeth are the many species of rodents with sixteen: two pairs of front teeth (or incisors) for cutting and twelve molars for grinding. A rodent skull of any size is instantly recognizable because of the conspicuous gap between the incisors and molars.

The Lynx and Bobcat both come equipped with twenty-eight teeth, including twelve incisors and four powerful canines. The Alaska Brown Bear, the world’s largest land carnivore, has the same number of incisors and canines as these cats but forty-two teeth overall. It does a lot more chewing than the cats and needs more molars. The Virginia Opossum is land record holder for most teeth, with a mouthful of fifty.

And The Most Bizarre…

Perhaps he most bizarre mammalian teeth are those of the Narwhal, the Unicorn Whale of Arctic seas. Male Narwhals have only two teeth, both set in the upper jaw. It’s the left tooth that makes the animal famous. Imbedded a foot deep in the jaw, the tooth spirals away from the head in a counterclockwise direction, growing up to 9 feet in length.

Unlike the Walrus, a Narwhal actually uses its tusk to dig up food as well as intimidate rivals. Some scientists have even theorized that the Narwhal tusk can funnel and direct a stream of high-frequency call notes from one male toward others in a kind of sonic battle, with ultrasonic sounds the main weapons.

So it seems that the teeth of animals are as varied as the species in which they’re found.  And we’ve just touched on mammals in this blog entry.

Got any wildlife dentistry stories to share?  Feel free to use the comments section below!

Learn more about walruses.

Want purple teeth too? Learn more about Purple Sea Urchins