Pilot whales asphyxiated by eating flatfish

This video is called Long-Finned Pilot Whale (Globicephala melas).

From PLOS one:

Fatal Asphyxiation in Two Long-Finned Pilot Whales (Globicephala melas) Caused by Common Soles (Solea solea)

November 18, 2015


Long-finned pilot whales (Globicephala melas) are rare visitors to the southern North Sea, but recently two individual strandings occurred on the Dutch coast. Both animals shared the same, unusual cause of death: asphyxiation from a common sole (Solea solea) stuck in their nasal cavity. This is a rare cause of death in cetaceans. Whilst asphyxiation has been reported in smaller odontocetes, there are no recent records of this occurring in Globicephala species.

Here we report the stranding, necropsy and diet study results as well as discuss the unusual nature of this phenomenon. Flatfish are not a primary prey species for pilot whales and are rarely eaten by other cetaceans, such as harbour porpoises (Phocoena phocoena), in which there are several reports of asphyxiation due to airway obstruction by soles. This risk may be due to the fish’s flexible bodies which can enter small cavities either actively in an attempt to escape or passively due to the whale ‘coughing’ or ‘sneezing’ to rid itself of the blockage of the trachea.

It is also possible that the fish enter the airways whilst the whale is re-articulating the larynx after trying to ingest large, oddly shaped prey. It is unlikely that the soles entered the airways after the death of the whales and we believe therefore that they are responsible for the death of these animals.

North Sea, Scotland, Iceland wildlife highlights

This video is called Barrow’s goldeneye (species of duck found in northwestern USA).

In Europe, Barrow’s goldeneyes live only in Iceland.

This blog has already posted about a sea journey, from Iceland to the Faeroe islands, to Fair Isle and the Isle of May in Scotland, across the North Sea to Zeeland province in the Netherlands. This was 19-28 September 2015.

Highlights of that journey were:

Barrow’s goldeneyes, harlequin ducks, great northern divers, gyrfalcons, ptarmigan and northern lights in Iceland.

13 species of marine mammals, including:

30 fin whales
9 humpback whales
1 blue whale
25 orcas


10,000’s of fulmars
60 sooty shearwaters
25 storm petrels
Blyth’s reed warbler, common rosefinch and yellow-browed warblers during landing on Fair Isle
Yellow-browed warbler at sea and on board the ship

North Sea, Scotland, Iceland wildlife video

This video shows a sea journey, from Iceland to the Faeroe islands, to Fair Isle and the Isle of May in Scotland, across the North Sea to Zeeland province in the Netherlands. This was 19-28 September 2015. Ms Neeltje Groot-Schamp made this video.

It shows birds, whales and dolphins encountered on that voyage.

Whale calf off Spanish coast

This 11 November 2015 video shows a fin whale calf swimming off the coast of Barcelona.

From The Local in Spain:

Amazing footage of lost whale calf swimming off Barcelona beach

Published: 12 Nov 2015 10:20 GMT+01:00

People taking a stroll along Barcelona’s beach were in for a surprise on Tuesday, when they spotted a whale just off the shore.

The finback whale, which measured around 10 metres (33 feet) long, was spotted on Tuesday between the beaches of Sant Miquel and Sant Sebastià.

“It was a very emotional moment,” Miquel Roigé, a surfer who spent around an hour paddling close to the whale on his board, told La Vanguardia.

“I love marine life and I’ve seen dolphins before but never a whale,” he added.

The whale made his appearance at around 4pm on Tuesday.

It is the first time an animal of that size has reached a Catalan port, confirmed sources from Catalonia’s Marine Animal Rescue Network.

Experts from the network were deployed to the scene, where they witnessed the whale swimming in the port, close to the tourist cruise ship terminal.

The animal had spent the night close to a freight terminal in the port. Towards midday, they had managed to coax the whale towards the southern exit of the port, where he swam away past the beach.

Surfer Miquel Roigé, who runs the paddle centre Moloka’i SUP, admitted the experience “great” but also “sad, because the calf was completely alone, outside its habitat”.

Experts were monitoring the whale on Wednesday to check if it was ill, or just disorientated.

Pilot whales near Dutch coast, videos

This video shows a pod of 7 or 8 long-finned pilot whales, in the North Sea, near Scheveningen, in The Hague in the Netherlands, on 28 October 2015.

Here is another video about that pod.

And here yet another video.

Long-finned pilot whales near Dutch harbour

This video is called Long-finned Pilot Whale Species Identification.

Today, a pod of seven long-finned pilot whales swam near Scheveningen, the seaside part of the Hague in the Netherlands. See here.

Rare Omura’s whales studied in Madagascar

This video says about itself:

23 October 2015

Balaenoptera omurai is known as Omura’s whale and is one of the least known species of whales in the world. Now, researchers have studied around 25 individuals in Madagascar, noticing unique asymmetrical pigmentation on the head:

A – asymmetrical coloration of the lower jaw
B – asymmetrical coloration of the gape
C – leading edge of pectoral fin white from tip to shoulder
D – apparent absence of lateral rostral ridges
E – lightly pigmented blaze originating anterior to the eye
F – lightly pigmented chevron anterior to dorsal fin

The study will continue on whales’ vocalizations, behavior and population characteristics.

From the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in the USA:

22 October 2015

New study provides first field observations of rare Omura’s whales

An international team of biologists has made the first-ever field observations of one of the least known species of whales in the world–Omura’s whales–off the coast of Madagascar.

In a paper published October 14, 2015, in the Royal Society Open Science journal, the researchers describe the whales’ foraging and vocal behaviors, and habitat preferences in the shallow waters of coastal Madagascar.

For many years, these marine mammals were misidentified as Bryde’s whales due to their similar appearance–both are small tropical baleen whales with comparable dorsal fins, though Omura’s are slightly smaller in size and have unique markings with a lower jaw that is white on the right side and dark on the left.

In 2003, using genetic data from samples obtained from old whaling expeditions and a few strandings in the western tropical Pacific, scientists determined Omura’s whales were actually a distinct species. But there had been no confirmed records of sightings in the wild and little else has been known about the elusive species until now.

“Over the years, there have been a small handful of possible sightings of Omura’s whales, but nothing that was confirmed,” says lead author Salvatore Cerchio, who led the research while at the Wildlife Conservation Society. He is now at the New England Aquarium (NEAQ) and a guest investigator at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). “They appear to occur in remote regions and are difficult to find at sea because they are small–they range in length from approximately 33 to 38 feet–and do not put up a prominent blow.”

So little is known about Omura’s whales that scientists are unsure how many exist or how rare the species is.

“What little we knew about these whales previously came primarily from eight specimens of Omura’s whales taken in Japanese scientific whaling off the Solomon and Keeling Islands and a couple strandings of dead animals in Japan,” Cerchio adds. “This is the first definitive evidence and detailed descriptions of Omura’s whales in the wild and part of what makes this work particularly exciting.”

When Cerchio and his colleagues, who have been conducting field research on marine mammals off the northwest coast of Madagascar since 2007, first spotted an Omura’s whale in the area in 2011, they too believed it was a Bryde’s whale.

“From the little information on their habitat and range, Omura’s whales were not supposed to be in that part of the Indian Ocean,” Cerchio says.

After moving study areas in 2013, the sightings became more frequent and the team noticed the distinct markings– unique asymmetrical pigmentation on the head– that led them to believe the whales might be Omura’s whales.

Over a two-year period, the researchers observed 44 groups and were able to collect skin biopsies from 18 adult whales. The samples were then sent to coauthor Alec Lindsay at Northern Michigan University who performed the DNA analysis that confirmed the whales’ species.

The research team also observed four mothers with young calves. Using hydrophones, they recorded song-like vocalizations that may indicate reproductive behavior.

Cerchio will return to the field in November to do further study on the whales’ vocalizations, behavior and population characteristics. He also hopes to expand the research area in future studies of Omura’s whales, working with colleagues at WHOI to deploy Digital Acoustic Recording Tags (DTAGS) and to study the species in other parts of its range.

Cerchio hopes to produce the first estimate of abundance for any population of Omura’s whales with the work off Madagascar. So far, the team has catalogued approximately 25 individuals through photographic identifications.

What are drift gillnets and how are they hurting whales? Here.