Tanzania’s whales and elephants


This video is called Tanzania – An African Wildlife Utopia.

From Tanzania Daily News (Dar es Salaam):

Animals Who Own the Sea

By Reginald Stanislaus Matillya, 8 February 2014

BETWEEN October and November Saadani National Park provides visitors a golden chance of seeing different species of Whales on the way to Jozani Forest National park in Zanzibar.

This feature gives Saadani National Park a special taste of watching the two largest animals in the World – Elephants and Whales. With a body measuring up to 30 metres or 98 ft in length and weighing more than 200 tonnes the Blue Whale is the largest animal on Earth because one full grown male is equal to forty full grown male African Bush Elephants who weigh 5 tonnes each.

The two giants come from one big kingdom of animals, a phylum of Chordata and class of mammals which include air breathing vertebrate animals who possess mammary glands which produce milk to feed their offspring.

Female Blue Whale gives birth to a single or twin calves after a gestation period of about a year weighing three tonnes like a full grown female African Bush Elephant who approximately weighs 3 tonnes.

The African Bush Elephant which is regarded as the largest land animal gives birth to an offspring weighing about 100 kilogrammes after the longest gestation period among mammals of 22 months.

Both calves of Blue Whale and Elephant starts their life by suckling nutritious milk from their mother as the baby elephant spend five months while baby Blue Whale takes a full year suckling their mother’s milk only.

During the first seven months of its life, a baby Blue Whale drinks approximately 400 litres of milk every day while and Elephant can hardly manage to drink 15 litres of milk reach in fat and protein.

Whale’s milk is more nutritious than one from an Elephant because fifty per cent of its content is made of fat, thirty- five protein and fifteen other important nutrients. This enables a young Blue Whale to add 90 kilogrammes after every 24 hours so by the time they are weaned within six months of age they are about 52 feet long and weighing about 23 tonnes.

At the beginning of winter in northern hemisphere pregnant female Blue Whales will migrate into Tropical area and swim to shallow warm water of the Indian Ocean to give birth.

While in the labour clinic located some few miles from the city of Dar es Salaam in the middle of Indian Ocean, the mother will allow the baby to come out from her womb by the tail first then the whole body.

After giving birth the mother will assist her new born to swim into a safe area with her flippers after 30 minutes although a baby Blue is capable to swim within ten minutes of their birth.

Blue Whales reach sexual maturity when they are ten years old although it is believed that male get matured later than female.

Blue Whales start mating in late autumn on September and continue until the coming of winter in December in Northern Hemisphere. Before mating a Blue Whale will sing a special song in series of pulses, groans, and moans to attract a sexual partner who may be up to 1,000 miles or 1,600 kilometres away and hear the call.

Among Elephant society there is no special period for mating so it can take place any time of the year.

When a female feel like having an intercourse she makes a special louder voice to alert all male in that area who may be a kilometre away.

The call will attract bulls who will come and engage in a fight until a victor is obtained and accepted by a female by rubbing her body against him then the two will separate from the group to mate in a conducive situation.

The Blue Whale has a gigantic body equivalent in size with a space shuttle orbiter or NBA basketball’s court but longer than it.

Their bodies are too heavy beyond comparison with a body of any single living thing in the entire world because weighing 200 tonnes you may compare them with eight DC 9 airplanes or fifteen big buses which ply between Arusha and Dar es Salaam.

Although they have those massive bodies Blue Whales are good swimmers because they can reach a top speed of 48.5 kilometres per hour in a bust but usually they cruise at a speed of 19.5 kilometres per hour.

Sleeping is an elusive phenomena to these two giants on Earth because in middle of the Sea to avoid drowning Blue Whales do not sleep totally instead, they rest part of their brain and leave one eye opened while swimming slowly because if they go down to the floor they can not breath, eventually they will die.

Elephants are not good sleepers but when they feel that they need to rest, it will be done for a maximum of four hours involving short naps of thirty minutes with long intervals of foraging, standing and walking and repeat the cycle until they reach four hours of sleeping in a day.

Elephants sleep directly on the ground, they lie down on the ground and sleep on their sides and since they get up a lot they often switch sides.

The main reason of this is that their big bodies make it uncomfortable to sleep like other animal in the wild because when they lie down to get some rest they put all their weight on their bones.

Blue Whales use their giant mouth with a tongue large like an Elephant to take in 5,000 litres of water some of which is forced out through two blowholes on top of the head in a spay going as high as a three storey building.

Elephants are herbivorous who eat 450 kilogrammes of vegetation per day while Blue Whale is carnivorous capable of eating 4 tons of Krill which are small Shrimplike animals in a day.

Elephants are intelligent animals who possess a smart brain weighing 5 kilogrammes compared with a 200 tonnes Blue Whale with a brain weighing only 10 kilogrammes.

The brain of an Elephant is similar to that of human being in terms of structure and complexity. The smart brain gives elephants ability to use their trunk properly and to recognise and respect remains of their loved ones. It is said they moan the death of their kind like humans and take care of a baby elephant when its mother dies.

Elephant has no real enemy in the wild but people who hunt and kill them for ivories. This also applies to Blue Whale hunted and killed by people for meat and oil.

Unlike the African Elephants, in the deep sea Blue Whales face predators who attack like African wild dogs.

A lonely Blue Whale in the deep sea may fall victim to Killer Whales who hunt in deadly parks called pods consisting of about forty or more individuals.

Pods use effective, cooperative hunting techniques like those we see from wild dogs whereby they chase and kill their victim without suffocation.

They feast on marine mammals such as seals, sea lions, and even Blue whales by applying their sharp ten centimetres teeth on the flesh of their victims. It has been proved that Killer Whales are cannibals who sometime attack, kill and eat each other especially their weak fellows.

Killer Whales make a wide variety of communicative sounds and each pod has distinctive noises that its members will recognise even at a distance.

Male Killer whales typically range from 6 to 8 metres or 20 to 26 ft long and weigh 6 tonnes like a full grown African Bush Elephant in the wild.

Females are smaller, generally ranging from 5 to 7 metres or 16 to 23 ft and weighing about 3 to 4 tones.

The killer whale’s large size and strength make it among the fastest marine mammals capable of reaching a top speed of 56 kilometres per hour.

Killer whales have good eyesight above and below the water, excellent hearing, and a good sense of touch.

They have exceptionally sophisticated echolocation mechanism which enables them to detect the location and characteristics of a prey and other objects in their environments by emitting clicks and listening for echoes.

Males sexually mature at the age of 15, but do not typically reproduce until age 21 while female mature at around age 15 and bear a single offspring after a gestation period of 15 to 18 months.

Female stop breading at the age of 40 while their lifespan is 50 years and maximum age is 90 years. Males live around 29 years on average and have a maximum age of 50 to 60 years. Killer Whales are present in all sea and oceans of the World including the Indian Ocean where they are frequently seen in an area between Tanzania and Seychelles.

Both Blue Whales and Killer Whales perform a spectacular show called Breaching which involve jumping out of water into the air and slamming their bodies into the water again. Tourists follow Whales in the sea to watch these attractive games.

It is possible to see Whales in Tanzania which borders with the Indian Ocean where Mnazi Bay Marine Park, Mafia Marine Park, Maziwi Island Marine Reserve, Chumbe Marine Park, Mnembe Marine Park, Misali Marine Park, Menei Marine Park, and Saadani National Park are located.

The coastal line of Tanzania starts north on the border with Kenya and stretch about 1,424 kilometres southward to the border with Mozambique.

The country has Maritime claims of territorial sea for 12 nautical miles and an exclusive economic zone of 200 nautical miles where the big sea mammals dwell.

The best position to watch whales may be in Zanzibar, Mafia and Mtwara.

Both The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), World Conservation Monitoring Centre and Convention on International Trade in Endangered

Species (CITES) have listed Blue Whale, Killer Whale and The African Elephant in the endangered species which need special protection.

Whales may have a previously unknown appetite for eels: here.

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New beaked whale species re-discovery


This video says about itself:

Blainville’s beaked whale / Mésoplodon de Blainville (Mesoplodon densirostris)

22 Aug 2010

Underwater footage of a unique encounter with a Blainville’s beaked whale in French Polynesia. Marine Mammal Study Group (www.gemmpacific.org).

From Wildlife Extra:

Researchers discover rare new species of deep-diving whale

Based on the study of seven animals stranded on remote tropical islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans over the past 50 years, researchers have identified a new species of the mysterious family of beaked whales.

Beaked whales, a widespread but little-known type of toothed whale, distantly related to sperm whales, are found in deep ocean waters beyond the edge of the continental shelf throughout the world’s oceans.

“They are rarely seen at sea due to their elusive habits, long dive capacity and the apparent low abundance of some species,” said Dr Merel Dalebout, the international team leader. “Understandably, most people have never heard of them.”

The first specimen of the new species was a female found on a Sri Lankan beach more than 50 years ago. On 26 January 1963, a 4.5m long, blue-grey beaked whale washed up at Ratmalana near Colombo. The then director of the National Museums of Ceylon, P.E.P (Paulus) Deraniyagala, described it as a new species, and named it Mesoplodon hotaula, after the local Singhala words for ‘pointed beak’.

However, two years later, other researchers reclassified this specimen as an existing species, Mesoplodon ginkgodens, named for the tusk-like teeth of the adult males that are shaped like the leaves of a ginkgo tree.

“Now it turns out that Deraniyagala was right regarding the uniqueness of the whale he identified. While it is closely related to the ginkgo-toothed beaked whale, it is definitely not the same species,” said Dr Dalebout. “The ginkgo-toothed beaked whale is only known from about 30 strandings and has never been seen alive at sea with any certainty. It’s always incredible to me to realise how little we really do know about life in the oceans. There’s so much out there to discover. “

The researchers used a combination of DNA analysis and physical characteristics to identify the new species from seven specimens found stranded in Sri Lanka, the Gilbert Islands (now Kiribati), Palmyra Atoll in the Northern Line Islands near Hawaii, the Maldives, and the Seychelles.

With the re-discovery of Mesoplodon hotaula, there are now 22 recognised species of beaked whales.

The scientific description of the re-discovered species is here.

A total of 93 whales have become stranded on Florida beaches in the past two months, almost three times the average, reports the local news agency, the Sun Sentinel. These large numbers have baffling marine biologists, making them wonder if a deadly common denominator is at play, such as a series of cold fronts affecting Florida in the past month: here.

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Prehistoric Pacific marine mammals discoveries


This video is called Whales evolution.

Not only news about big land mammals during the Ice Age … also about big marine mammals before the Ice Age.

From the University of Otago in New Zealand:

Strange marine mammals of ancient North Pacific revealed

February 5, 2014

Summary:

The pre-Ice Age marine mammal community of the North Pacific formed a strangely eclectic scene, new research reveals. Studying hundreds of fossil bones and teeth excavated from the San Francisco Bay Area‘s Purisima Formation, scientists have put together a record of 21 marine mammal species including dwarf baleen whales, odd double-tusked walruses, porpoises with severe underbites and a dolphin closely related to the now-extinct Chinese river dolphin.

The pre-Ice Age marine mammal community of the North Pacific formed a strangely eclectic scene, research by a Geology PhD student at New Zealand’s University of Otago reveals.

Studying hundreds of fossil bones and teeth he excavated from the San Francisco Bay Area’s Purisima Formation, Robert Boessenecker has put together a record of 21 marine mammal species including dwarf baleen whales, odd double-tusked walruses, porpoises with severe underbites and a dolphin closely related to the now-extinct Chinese river dolphin.

Among his finds, which were fossilized 5 to 2.5 million years ago, is a new species of fossil whale, dubbed Balaenoptera bertae, a close relative of minke, fin, and blue whales.

Mr Boessenecker named the whale in honour of San Diego State University‘s Professor Annalisa Berta, who has made numerous contributions to the study of fossil marine mammals and mentored many students.

Although an extinct species, it belongs within the same genus as minke and fin whales, indicating that the Balaenoptera lineage has lasted for 3-4 million years. Balaenoptera bertae would have been approximately 5-6 meters in length, slightly smaller than modern minke whales, Mr Boessenecker says.

His findings appear in the most recent edition of the international journal Geodiversitas.

The publication represents eight years of research by Mr Boessenecker, who was 18 in 2004 when he was tipped off by a local surfer about bones near Half Moon Bay. When he discovered the fossil site, he was astonished by the numerous bone-beds and hundreds of bones sticking out of the cliffs.

He excavated the incomplete skull of Balaenoptera bertae during early field research there in 2005 and it was encased in a hard concretion that took five years to remove.

“The mix of marine mammals I ended up uncovering was almost completely different to that found in the North Pacific today, and to anywhere else at that time,” he says.

Primitive porpoises and baleen whales were living side-by-side with comparatively modern marine mammals such as the Northern fur seal and right whales. And species far geographically and climatically removed from their modern relatives also featured, such as beluga-like whales and tusked walruses, which today live in the Arctic, he says.

“At the same time as this eclectic mix of ancient and modern-type marine mammals was living together, the marine mammal fauna in the North Atlantic and Southern Ocean were already in the forms we find today.”

Mr Boessenecker says this strange fauna existed up until as recently as one or two million years ago. Its weirdness was likely maintained by warm equatorial waters and barriers to migration by other marine mammals posed by the newly formed Isthmus of Panama, and the still-closed Bering Strait.

“Once the Bering Strait opened and the equatorial Pacific cooled during the Ice Age, modernised marine mammals were able to migrate from other ocean basins into the North Pacific, leading to the mix we see today,” he says.

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Rare blue whales near New Zealand


This video is called BBC Planet Earth (Blue whale).

From the New Zealand Herald:

Giants of the sea: Blue whales spotted in NZ

11:51 AM Monday Feb 3, 2014

Rare blue whales have been spotted off the coast of the North Island by NIWA scientists.

The whales, the world’s largest animal, remain one of the planet’s most elusive creatures.

They were intensively hunted in the Southern Hemisphere during the whaling era, dramatically reducing their numbers.

The creatures were spotted by scientists on a research expedition in the South Taranaki Bight led by NIWA marine ecologist Dr Leigh Torres.

The group is aiming to collect data to increase understanding of the blue whale population in the region. The team has observed nearly 50 blue whales in the past week.

“It is very exciting to see these whales and start the process of collecting important data on this undescribed population and poorly understood foraging habitat,” Dr Torres said.

“In addition to finding the whales, we were able to detect their prey visually on the surface and at-depth using hydro-acoustics.”

Dr Torres last year published a scientific paper that discussed the possibility of a blue whale foraging ground in the Bight.

Her research showed the presence of blue whales in the area was greater than expected. An increase in reported sightings was also linked to a prominent upwelling system that generates large clouds of plankton – perfect for blue whales to feed on.

It was previously thought the whales were only travelling through New Zealand waters while migrating.

Blue whales need to eat vast amounts of plankton to support their energy demands. But there are just four confirmed blue whale foraging grounds in the Southern Hemisphere outside of Antarctic waters,” Dr Torres said.

Pygmy blue whales migrating from Perth to Indonesia: here.

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Fossil whale discovery in California


This video says about itself:

The jaws of the Leviathan: by Nature Video

28 June 2010

The fossilized skull and jaw of a giant, 12–13 million-year-old sperm whale have been discovered off the coast of Peru. The creature, whose discovery is reported in this week’s Nature, belongs to a previously unknown genus of sperm whale and has been named in honour of Herman Melville, the author of Moby Dick.

The fossil was found in ocean layers where the giant shark has also been recorded and the authors suggest that these two giant, raptorial predators could have lived in the same area, feeding on large, marine vertebrates, such as baleen whales.

From the Daily Breeze in California, USA:

‘Priceless’ fossil find on Palos Verdes Peninsula could be 12-million-year-old sperm whale

By Donna Littlejohn, The Daily Breeze

Posted: 01/30/14, 7:03 PM PST

For decades it sat in a garden on the Chadwick School campus — a 700-pound Altamira shale boulder with a fossil partially exposed.

What that fossil turned out to be surprised most everyone.

Paleontologists from the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum suspect the find could be nothing short of a new, prehistoric sperm whale species from the Palos Verdes Peninsula, which once was underwater.

The fossil is thought to be about 12 million years old, said Howell Thomas, senior paleontologist for the museum.

“I expect it to be something new,” said Thomas, who visited the private school campus about a year ago to inspect the find.

“It’s pretty remarkable and scientifically significant,” said Chadwick science teacher Martin Byhower, who contacted the museum last year with a request for help in identifying that fossil and several other embedded marine fossils used in landscaping on the campus. The other shale rocks contained fossil remnants of ribs and vertebrae from whales but did not qualify as any kind of significant discovery, Thomas said.

“I looked at them and said ‘That’s this, this is that — and this (the skull) needs to come to the museum,’” Thomas said.

“I looked at it and said, ‘Ah! That’s a sperm whale skull and it’s really small,’ which makes it even more important. Juveniles are rare.”

Animals in the wild grow up quickly, he said, making it unlikely that the small size points to a juvenile. More likely, he said, the fossil appears to be from a small adult species of sperm whale that hasn’t previously been identified by scientists.

The museum will collect the piece on Wednesday and take it back to its laboratories for what will be a year’s work of further excavation and study, Thomas said.

Using state-of-the-art tools, the ancient and delicate fossil material will be painstakingly separated from the shale rock that covers perhaps 75 percent of the skull.

As part of the research, the museum will attempt to locate another small sperm whale fossil also reportedly found on the Palos Verdes Peninsula but not on Chadwick property, to compare the two, Thomas said.

The embedded skull appears to have been on the private school campus for nearly 80 years, most likely uncovered during earlier construction projects.

Byhower said it’s been moved a few times during his 30 years of teaching at the school.

Fellow science teacher and Chadwick alumni Nick Herzik said the find is “priceless.”

“I probably sat on this a million times” as a student,” he said.

For Byhower, learning more about the fossils was a way to encourage his students’ natural curiosity about the world around them.

“I just want kids to observe and wonder about the world. I want them to persist until they get the answers” to the mysteries that surround them, Byhower said.

The museum and school have been in negotiations for the past year, Thomas said, to finalize an agreement to have the rock and fossil transported and donated. In exchange, the school will receive a cast model of the fossil when it is finished.

The museum will document its work and likely write a paper for publication when the examinations are complete.

There is “no guarantee” that the find will result in identifying a new species, Thomas said.

“But I expect it will be,” he said.

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Recovered porpoise Ella back in the North Sea


This video is called Harbour Porpoise Species Identification.

Dutch news agency ANP reports that harbour porpoise Ella has been freed on 14 January 2014 after recovery from illness.

On 18 October 2013, Ella had beached on Texel island. In the SOS Dolfijn centre in Harderwijk, she recovered from pneumonia. A bus brought her back to the North Sea where she swims again now.

Harbour porpoises lead solitary lives. So, contrary to when releasing killer whales, they don’t have to be brought back to their pod.

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