Humpback whale in North Sea, video


This 7 October 2017 video, made from the Maasvlakte near Rotterdam in the Netherlands by Julian & Michiel, shows a humpback whale in the North Sea.

See also here.

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Humpback whale rescued, video


This video says about itself:

6 October 2017

When the Blue World team aboard the Live-aboard dive boat Sea Escape encounters a Humpback Whale helplessly entangled in marine debris, they launch a daring rescue operation with the assistance of the Solmar V. This segment follows the adventure of freeing the whale from certain death entangled in fishing line, buoys and kelp!

JONATHAN BIRD’S BLUE WORLD is an Emmy Award-winning underwater science/adventure program.

Hundreds of polar bears eat dead whale


This video about Arctic Siberia says about itself:

Hundreds of Polar Bears Gather to Feast on Whale Carcass

29 September 2017

According to a Wrangel Island news release, at least 230 polar bears gathered on Wrangel Island to gorge on a dead bowhead whale, which washed ashore Sept. 19.

From the Heritage Expeditions blog:

SHO: An unbelievable experience at Wrangel Island

19 September, 2017

I simply don’t know where or how to start this blog .. today has been one of those days I or anybody else with me will never ever forget. You had to live it to believe it, even now there are people pinching themselves to make sure it really happened, but I get ahead of myself.

The day started at 0530 with an early breakfast. We were anchored near Pitchy Bazar on the western coast of Wrangel Island. The Island was coated with a fresh coating of snow, a huge contrast to yesterday’s blue sky and warm weather at the Clark River. The early morning lighting that accompanied the sunrise was surreal. There were several options, ranging from the very easy to the more extreme.

I was on beach patrol with some folk on the easier walk when a young bear wandered our way. He had attitude and he was definitely interested in us. We persuaded him to move on and he lay down about 50 metres away in the snow and watched us. It was a close but incredibly fascinating encounter. Little did we know there were even more incredible things to come. What we saw (and experienced) next will rewrite expedition travel experiences. We were cruising down the coast and saw a “herd” or “convention “ of Polar Bears on/near the beach. There was a dead bowhead whale and we counted over 150 Polar Bears (of all ages, sexes and sizes) that were either feeding or had been feeding on it in the immediate vicinity of the whale. We launched the zodiacs for a closer look and that is the memory we will all carry with us … there are no words to describe it. I share one photo in the hope that it will portray something of our experience.

We leave Wrangel Island tonight on the last leg of this journey.

Rodney Russ – Expedition Leader, Owner and Founder

I had years ago the privilege of being on an expedition with Rodney Russ. Not to the Arctic; to New Zealand subantarctic islands like Campbell island.

The video shows the dead whale had attracted glaucous gulls as well.

Fossil baleen whale discovery in Japan


This video says about itself:

22 August 2017

Fossil of whale of 15 million years old reveals ancient hatcheries

A second close look at a fossil has revealed a hatchery previously unknown of an extinct whale, and potentially sheds light on how species respond to changing weather conditions. They report a careful reexamination of several fossils of an extinct whale, Parietobalaena yamaokai, which existed around 15 million years ago. Fossils had been collected over the last century from around Hiroshima, and were held at Hiwa City Museum of Natural History. When examining one of the exhibits, part of a skull, Tsai noticed that two of the bones had not completely woven, indicating that the animal must have been less than six months old when he died.

Identification of a possible breeding place of the Miocene for whales in the northern hemisphere also raises some interesting questions, he concludes. When, where and what species of whales initiated the long, annual migration between feeding and childbirth. Answers to these questions could help provide clues about the breeding grounds of modern whales whose locations are largely unknown. This, in turn, will have direct application for conservation strategies.

From ScienceDaily:

A potential breeding site of a Miocene era baleen whale

Researcher identifies evidence of a calf whale from the Miocene of Hiroshima, Japan suggesting the earliest known site for baleen whale breeding in the northern hemisphere

August 22, 2017

Baleen whales are amongst the largest animals to have ever lived and yet very little is known about their breeding habits. One researcher’s second look at previously found baleen whale fossils from Japan provides new evidence of a now long-gone breeding ground of the extinct baleen whale Parietobalaena yamaokai dating back over 15 million years.

The research published in the open-access journal PeerJ elaborates on the evidence of the presence of a very young individual of an extinct baleen whale, along with the occurrence of several fossil specimens of the same whale species. This study claims to have discovered a very uncommon case — a breeding ground for a long extinct large whale.

Researcher Cheng-Hsiu Tsai noticed the open suture in the skull of one fossil specimen, which indicates the preservation of a very young whale — under six months old, perhaps even close to a new-born calf. The fossil specimens investigated were originally found in the 20th century and are currently held at the Hiwa Museum for Natural History, Shobara, Hiroshima, Japan.

Identifying breeding grounds of living species of whales are incredibly rare, let alone for extinct Miocene species. For example, scientists are not certain where the endangered western gray whales reproduce, in turn leading to no concrete strategies to recover this critically endangered population of around 100 individuals.

The discovery of an ancient paleo-breeding site, which dates back to 15 million years ago, could provide new insights into the future of baleen whale survival. In a rapidly changing world, locating breeding sites and understanding why a breeding site disappeared may subsequently lead to information on how best to respond in order to conserve these living endangered populations.

Sardines and their predators


This video says about itself:

Sardine Feeding Frenzy: Whale, Shark, Dolphin and Sea Lions – The Hunt – BBC Earth

28 July 2017

A sizeable shoal of sardines proves to be quite a magnet for a variety of different sea predators. Surprisingly, none of the predators on display attack each other, instead they corral the ball of fish, taking turns to eat.

Humpback whales’ unusual flipper flapping


This video says about itself:

4 May 2016

This is the incredible moment a humpback whale feeds just feet away from docked boats showing off his giant mouth.

Fisherman Cy Williams watched as the behemoth majestically beached the surface of the water at Knudson Cove Marina, Alaska, USA.

As Cy tried to follow the whale’s path under the stationary vessels – including his own – on Monday May 2, he spotted bubbles heading toward the surface.

Suddenly the gaping jaws of the mammoth mammal shot into the air, taking a massive gulp on the way back.

From Stanford University in the USA:

Unexpected flipper flapping in humpback whales observed

July 10, 2017

Summary: Humpback whales flap their foreflippers like penguins or sea lions, researchers have discovered. This unexpected observation helps explain whale maneuvering and could improve designs inspired by their movement.

When Jeremy Goldbogen, an assistant professor of biology at Stanford University, affixed recording devices to humpback whales, it was with the hope of learning more about how the animals move in their natural environment — deep underwater and far from human’s ability to observe.

However, in the process of reviewing footage of the whales feeding in groups, he and his team noticed something unexpected. In rare instances, the cameras caught whales flapping their foreflippers like penguins or sea lions, but completely unlike anything seen before in whales.

“Whales power their swimming by using their muscular tails,” said Paolo Segre, a postdoctoral researcher. “However, in this case we have documented the first example of a whale flapping its flippers to move forward, using a motion similar to a bird flapping its wings.”

This novel movement, detailed July 10 in Current Biology, helps the researchers understand more about the abilities and anatomy of these mysterious animals and could also inform bio-inspired design.

Unique flippers

The foreflippers of humpbacks are bumpy and slender compared to the much shorter, smoother front flippers of other whales. They are so distinctive, in fact, that the scientific name for humpback whales, Megaptera novaeangliae, means “big-winged New Englander.”

Because scientists have thought foreflippers were mainly involved in steering, it makes sense that the unusual flipper shape could explain the humpback’s famously skillful maneuvering. Video tagging technology, like that developed by the Goldbogen Lab, is relatively new, so scientists have only recently had the opportunity to test and expand on this hypothesis.

“In the past, researchers have looked at the structure of the whale flipper from dead animals,” said Goldbogen, who carries out his research at Hopkins Marine Station and is senior author of the paper. “But for the first time we can see how this structure actually is used in a living whale — in its natural environment.”

From their footage, the group estimated the hydrodynamic forces produced by the flapping and found the whales were generating a significant amount of thrust. They also found this behavior was extremely rare. In hundreds of hours of video, some of which included groups of about 200 whales, they only saw the foreflipper flapping twice, which may be why they’re the first to report it.

“It is likely very energetically expensive and only used for short bursts of acceleration,” said Segre, who is lead author of the paper. “It is probable that humpback whales are the only species that can do this because of the length and extensive range of motion of their flippers.”

The humpback whale is the most studied of all the whales, said Goldbogen, but, by revealing a new purpose for its namesake appendage, this work demonstrates we have much more to learn about this species.

Bio-inspiration

In addition to telling us more about these mysterious giants of the sea, research on whale biomechanics could be used by scientists in other fields. Even our best aquatic technology has yet to catch up to whales’ ability to move their enormous bodies quickly and precisely or their extremely efficient long-distance migrations.

“By understanding how the body flexes, and how the flippers and flukes are used to maneuver, we will have a better understanding of the mechanisms used by the largest animals to attain high-performance locomotion,” Goldbogen said. “Therefore, our research has implications for the biomimetic design applications from enhanced performance of animals to mechanized submersibles.”

The group’s next step is to create a 3-D movement and 360-degree panoramic video version of their tag that would capture a whale’s entire body along with the environment around it.

Whales’ flipper flapping is preferable to politicians’ flip-flopping.

Humpback whales feast when hatcheries release salmon, by Susan Milius. 7:05pm, July 11, 2017.

Baleen whale evolution, new research


This video from the USA says about itself:

Ancient whale reveals origins of filter feeders

29 June 2017

A 30 million-year-old species of whale first found in South Carolina had a bizarre feeding system. Researchers have discovered that the whale used its front teeth to snag larger prey, such as small fish, while its back molars were used to filter through water for tiny crustaceans. The team say that the whale could offer new insight into how the filter-feeding system used by blue and humpback whales first evolved. In this reconstruction, the two main whales in the centre are the recently discovered ancient whale Coronodon havensteini, while the lower two in the background are Echovenator sandersi. The birds are Pelagornis sandersi – avians with a wingspan near 6.5 metres (21 ft).

From ScienceDaily:

Ancient South Carolina whale yields secrets to filter feeding’s origins

June 29, 2017

The blue whale is the largest animal that has ever lived. And yet they feed almost exclusively on tiny crustaceans known as krill. The secret is in the baleen, a complex filter-feeding system that allows the enormous whales to strain huge volumes of saltwater, leaving only krill and other small organisms behind. Now, researchers who have described an extinct relative of baleen whales in Current Biology on June 29 offer new insight into how baleen first evolved.

The findings shed light on a long-standing debate about whether the first baleen whales were toothless suction feeders or toothed whales that used their teeth like a sieve to filter prey out of water, the researchers say. The teeth of the newly discovered species of mysticete, called Coronodon havensteini, lend support to the latter view.

“We know from the fossil record that the ancestors of baleen whales had teeth,” says Jonathan Geisler of the New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine. “However, the transition from teeth to baleen is controversial. Our study indicates that early toothed whales used spaces between their large complex teeth for filtering and that baleen gradually replaced teeth over millions of years.”

The new whale species was found in the early 2000s by a scuba diver in South Carolina’s Wando River. He was looking for shark teeth and found the fossilized whale instead. The whale, which lived some 30 million years ago, was later recognized as a representative of a new transitional species.

“The skull of this species indicates that it split off very early in mysticete whale evolution, and our analyses confirm that evolutionary position,” Geisler says.

Geisler and his colleagues realized that meant the whale could offer important clues about the teeth to baleen transition. The whale under study also had other interesting features. It was larger than other toothed mysticetes, with a skull nearly one meter long. Its large molars in comparison to other whales further suggested an unusual feeding behavior.

Closer examination of the shape and wear on the whale’s teeth led the researchers to conclude that the whale used its front teeth to snag prey. But the whale’s large, back molars were used in filter feeding, by expelling water through open slots between the closed teeth.

“The wear on the molars of this specimen indicates they were not used for shearing food or for biting off chunks of prey,” he says. “It took us quite some time to come to the realization that these large teeth were framing narrow slots for filter feeding.”

As confirmation, the researchers found wear on the hidden cusps bordering those slots between the teeth.

The findings offer another example of a broader evolutionary pattern in which body parts (in this case teeth) that evolved for one function are later co-opted for another function. The researchers say they are now examining closely related species from the Charleston, SC, area in search of additional evidence.