Humpbacks help gray whales against orcas

This video from the USA says about itself:

Off the coast of Monterey Bay, California, the arena is set killer whales and gray whales are set for an annual, epic battle. While gray whales are 30-ton powerhouses, they face a fierce predator in killer whales. Join Wild Chronicles to see who wins this struggle for survival beneath the turbulent waves.

From the BBC:

9 May 2012 Last updated at 09:32

Humpback whales intervene in killer whale hunt

By Ella Davies Reporter, BBC Nature

A BBC/National Geographic film crew have recorded rare footage of humpback whales intervening in a killer whale hunt.

Gray whales migrating along the coast of California, US are often targeted by orcas.

One mother and calf’s journey was being filmed for the BBC series Planet Earth Live when the third party became involved in the drama.

Onlookers suggest they were deliberately disrupting the hunt.

“To be honest we weren’t expecting to see anything – it was our very first day out on the boat,” said Victoria Bromley, a researcher with the crew that witnessed the scene.

“It was a massive stroke of luck when we received the call about the attack.”

Working from a whale-watching boat from Monterey Bay Whale Watch, the team set up to film in an area known for sightings of gray whales.

Every year female gray whales travel north from the birthing waters off the coast of Mexico to the nutrient rich waters of the Bering Sea with their calves.

Along the route, they are targeted by orcas, which co-ordinate their attacks – aiming to separate the defenceless young from their mothers.

To minimise their risk from the predators, gray whales swim in relatively shallow water but at Monterey Bay the whales must swim over the Monterey Canyon that in places can reach two miles deep.

The film crew arrived at the scene of the hunt following a tip off call from a sister boat.

Using a camera mounted on the boat, Ms Bromley told BBC Nature: “we saw a lot of grey shapes in the water and quickly realised they were humpbacks.”

According to the crew the additional whales were not just observers of the hunt but were actively involved.

Humpback whales are known for their impressive range of calls, including a high-pitched “trumpeting” noise made when they are agitated.

The humpbacks at Monterey Bay were trumpeting, diving and slapping their pectoral fins against the water.

“It didn’t seem at all like they were confused… they were definitely there with a purpose,” said Ms Bromley.

Shortly after the crew arrived the orca successfully caught their prey. The mother whale fled the scene but the humpbacks remained.

“I have never seen anything like this before,” said marine biologist Alisa Schulman-Janiger who accompanied the filmmakers.

Mrs Schulman-Janiger has studied California killer whales since 1984 and is currently the director of the American Cetacean Society/Los Angeles Chapter’s Gray Whale Census and Behavior Project.

After the attack, two humpback whales moved into the area where the calf was last seen alive. They continued to make trumpeting calls, rolled in the water and slashed their tails aggressively at killer whales that came near.

According to Mrs Schulman-Janiger the whole encounter lasted seven hours.

“An extraordinary number of humpback whales had appeared “overnight”, feeding within a five mile area: about 100 humpback whales – converging on an abundance of krill that had grown concentrated after two days of very strong winds,” she explained.

“The whales [we watched] should have been off feeding: instead, they deliberately stayed in our area, loudly announcing their presence.”

The researchers have sent photographs of the humpback whales to a research centre for identification against the North Pacific humpback whale catalogue.

“Female humpback whales would be expected to react much more strongly to the protection of a youngster,” said Mrs Schulman-Janiger.

“This was not a curious approach by these humpback whales: they seemed truly distressed.”

Whale facts

Gray whales undertake the longest annual migration of any known mammal, a round trip of about 20,000km or more
Humpback whales perform spectacular displays of breaching (leaping clear of the water) and males sing a complex song that can last for days, in order to attract a mate
Killer whales are not actually whales at all – they are the largest species of dolphin

ScienceDaily (May 8, 2012) — Though they evolved separately over millions of years in different worlds of darkness, bats and toothed whales use surprisingly similar acoustic behavior to locate, track, and capture prey using echolocation, the biological equivalent of sonar. Now a team of Danish researchers has shown that the acoustic behavior of these two types of animals while hunting is eerily similar. The findings were made possible by a new type of whale tag that allows scientists, for the first time, to track whales’ foraging behavior in the wild: here.

Researchers: Whales May Turn Down Their Hearing Sensitivity When Warned Of An Impending Loud Noise: here.

Do Whales Have Wax In Their Ears? Here.

Killer whale expert out of work as feds cut ocean-pollution monitoring positions: here.

Australia: Return of the killer whales of Eden, NSW: here.

May 2012. Watchers looking out for orcas from Duncansby Head on the very north of mainland Scotland were stunned to witness an attack by a six strong pod on five white-beaked dolphins: here.

May 2012. Sightings of a large whale off the Cornish coast near Lizard Point are causing a stir amongst scientists who say it could have been a North Atlantic right whale, one of the most endangered species in the world. Other possibilities are the Gray whale which went extinct in Atlantic Waters in the 17th century, though one was seen in 2010 in The Mediterranean, or a humpback whale: here.

Humpback near Rotterdam: here.

12 thoughts on “Humpbacks help gray whales against orcas

  1. Pingback: Versatile Blogger Award again, thank you! | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  2. Pingback: Stop pseudo-scientific whaling | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  3. Humpbacks bounce back in Brazil

    Sep 3, 2012

    An institute that tracks the population of Humpback whales that reproduce along Brazil’s coast says the number of the once-threatened mammals has tripled over the last 10 years.

    The Humpback Whale Institute says in a news release there are now almost 10,000 humpbacks off the Brazilian coast. In 2002, the institute counted approximately 3,000 whales.

    Institute chief Milton Marcondes says the whales’ fat once was used as fuel for public lighting and in construction. Hunting was banned in 1966, when only about 1,000 whales were left.

    Marcondes says restoration efforts have helped the species recover in spite of global warming, accidents with boats and fishing nets.

    – AP


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