Older female killer whales become pod leaders


This video is called Documentary The Orca – The Intelligent Killer WhaleNational Geographic.

From the Los Angeles Times in the USA:

Menopausal whales lead the group, study says

By Melissa Healy

Sharelines

Mystery solved (maybe): Some females live beyond their reproductive years because their wisdom benefits kin

Menopause: an evolutionary mystery unique to humans, killer whales and short-finned pilot whales

Female killer whales can live past 90. Males rarely survive after 50

What does an ocean-going titaness do after she has the lost the ability to bear young?

Well, for starters, she goes on living–sometimes past the ripe old age of 90, while male killer whales over 50 are dying off in droves. Throughout the animal kingdom, that is unusual enough.

But the menopausal female killer whale does more than survive, says a new study: She “leans in,” becoming an influential leader of younger killer whales, honing the survival skills of her progeny–and their progeny–unencumbered by direct childcare duties of her own.

Quite the opposite of being a burden to her kind, her post-menopausal leadership role seems to make the older female killer whale her species’ evolutionary ace in the hole.

Published in the journal Current Biology, the new research finds that among killer whales, females beyond their reproductive years become habitual leaders of collective movement–generally foraging movement–within their pods. Their position “on point” becomes particularly prominent in lean years, when salmon–the mainstay of the killer whales’ diet–is scarce.

The new findings offer the first evidence that in certain species and under specific circumstances, females who live well beyond their reproductive years “act as repositories of ecological knowledge.”

That helps solve an enduring mystery among biologists: Why–in humans and in two species of toothed whales only–would individuals who no longer propagate their genes continue to survive?

The authors of the study are marine mammal researchers from the universities of York and Exeter in Great Britain and the Center for Whale Research in Washington state. To glean their findings, they analyzed 751 hours of video taken of Southern resident killer whales during annual salmon migrations off the coast of British Columbia and Washington.

The videos were taken over a period of nine years. They captured the movements of pods of killer whales whose populations have been identified and tracked since 1976. That allowed the researchers to determine the age and relatedness of the 102 creatures whose movements they analyzed.

Such detail also allowed the authors to speculate on why post-menopausal survival is so very rare. If post-reproductive females can be such an evolutionary boon for their kin, why do they not survive to serve that function across many species?

Some have suggested that for humans, at least, the post-menopausal survival of women is merely an artifact of better medical care.

Not so, new research–including the killer whales study–suggests. The answer, the authors of this study wrote, may lie in different kinship patterns. Among killer whales, generations of males and females stay together throughout their lives, foraging as a group. As a female ages, her level of genetic relatedness to members of her pod increases.

“Menopause will only evolve,” they wrote, “when inclusive fitness benefits outweigh the costs of terminating reproduction.”

In short, an older female’s continued value to the group may be a function not only of her accumulated knowledge about the whereabouts of food, shelter and predators, but also of her genetic stake in the group’s survival.

That was the case, too, in hunter-gatherer human societies, the authors note. As human societies evolved, women reaching sexual maturity tended to leave the group. As her sons and their many mates and children populated her group, an aging woman’s “relatedness” to that group tended to grow.

In contrast, among other long-lived mammals, sons move off as they reach sexual maturity. So a female becomes less related to the “pod” she stays with as she become older. Under those circumstances, the authors write, she may have sufficient ecological wisdom but not a sufficient level of “relatedness” to her group to ensure her survival beyond the years of reproduction.

Unique bowhead whale swims near Cornwall


This video is called Bowhead Whale of the Arctic (Nature Documentary).

From ITV in Britain:

Bowhead whale spotted in Cornish waters

A whale never before seen in European waters has been sighted off the Cornish coast.

The Bowhead whale is usually found in the Arctic. The Sea Watch Foundation made this extraordinary discovery after mysterious pictures were sent in showing an animal whose head shape and jaw line didn’t match with descriptions of any of the expected whale species.

The pictures were sent in by Anna Cawthray, taken on a friend’s mobile phone. They showed the 25 ft long whale that she’d encountered off Par Beach on the island of St Martin’s.

Sea Watch’s Sightings Officer, Kathy James, sent the photos to other experts who confirmed the sighting as a bowhead whale. They say its “extraordinary” to see a bowhead in these waters.

Last updated Sat 28 Feb 2015

BBC – Earth – Do whales have graveyards where they prefer to die? Here.

Humpback whale freed from fishing gear, Hawaii, video


This video from Hawaii says about itself:

Humpback whale successfully freed from entangled gear

21 February 2015

After an eight-hour operation, a humpback whale spotted off Kona last week has been successfully freed of life-threatening gauge line.

Pakistani fishermen save rare whale


This video says about itself:

Endangered whale saved by brave fishermen – Pakistan

18 February 2015

An extremely rare whale, identified as most probably a Longman’s beaked whale, was successfully rescued from gillnet off Pakistan – all thanks to the training provided to the crew as part of a WWF-Pakistan project.

It took 30 minutes, but this stunning whale was freed and swam away!

According to a WWF message on Twitter today:

15 whale sharks, 3 manta rays, 2 sunfishes, and now 1 whale have been rescued from gillnets off Pakistan.

After the humpback whale saved near Hawaii

Entangled humpback whale freed


This video says about itself:

Exclusive Preview of Humpback Whales of Tahiti

18 February 2014

Along the majestic islands of French Polynesia, host Jeff Corwin explores one of the largest ocean sanctuaries on earth and comes face to face with a family of Humpback whales. Jeff investigates whale biology, conservation, and witnesses the special bond between a protective mother and her precocious calf. It’s a once in a lifetime adventure with some of our planet’s most awe-inspiring animals.

From Associated Press:

Crews free humpback whale tangled in fishing line off Hawaii

February 22 at 7:23 AM

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii — Officials say a 45-ton humpback whale entangled with fishing line in Hawaii waters for more than a week is finally free.

The Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary said Saturday that its craft got within 10 feet of the mammal a day earlier and the crew used a pole equipped with a knife to saw the line free.

Ed Lyman of the sanctuary says several hundred feet of line was cut away.

West Hawaii Today reports that when the 45-foot-long whale swam free, all line but a small piece lodged in a wound was off. Lyman says that the fragment will fall away as the wound heals.

The entangled whale was first spotted Feb. 13 off the Big Island’s Kona Coast.

Experts say such entanglements could result in drowning, starvation, infections and increased susceptibility to ship strikes.

New grey whale migration research


This video from California in the USA says about itself:

Super Pod of Gray Whales

27 January 2015

We ran an ultimate 8 hour Whale Watching trip on 1-25-15 from Dana Point to Catalina; we are Dana Wharf Whale Watching. Here’s the final sightings report from that day. There were sightings of 45 + gray whales which included a superpod of 15+ and another of 12+ (interacting with Risso’s dolphins), 1 Fin whale, 200 Offshore bottlenose dolphin, 40 Risso’s dolphin, 35 Long beaked Common dolphin, 3 Harbor Seals, dozens of CA Sea Lions and a Bald Eagle on Catalina Island. Watch all the way to the end you will see a group of Risso dolphin harassing the Gray Whales, and how they react to them. Enjoy once again, we thank all our “Whale Geek” friends and a BIG THANKS to Captain Todd Mansur and Captain Frank Brennan for flying these amazing drones.

From Wildlife Extra:

New technology counts migrating whales by seeing the warmth of their breath

The Grey Whale migration down the west coast of America from the summer feeding grounds in the Arctic to the wintering grounds off Baja California, Mexico, is being charted in even greater detail thanks to new technology employed by scientists at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) just south of Monterey Bay.

Counts used to be done just by NOAA personnel using binoculars but now they are employing three thermal imaging cameras linked to a computer that is capable of analysing the images and distinguishing the whales from the heat put out by their blow as they surface to breathe.

“A whale is this great big motor that takes in a breath of air and holds it inside for a long time,” says Wayne Perryman, a NOAA Fisheries scientist who helped develop the new system. “When it exhales, the air is much warmer than the background, and we can detect that difference very easily, both day and night.”

Human observers can only work in daylight hours so in previous years the count could never be that accurate. Now the cameras work round the clock for the duration of the entire migration, so much more accurate figures can be recorded and compared year-on-year.

The thermal imaging cameras are much the same as those used by helicopter police to track criminals at night. What’s most innovative is the software that works with the cameras.

“The biggest challenge was getting the detector to be as accurate as possible without having it get fooled by false alarms,” said Dave Weller, the NOAA Fisheries scientist who leads the survey team.

The refined software the team developed can now distinguish between whales, flocks of birds and passing boats.

Not only that, but when the computer sees a blow, it can predict where and when the same whale will surface to blow again. That prediction algorithm, which is based on years of research into Gray Whale’s diving behaviour, means that the computer can track individual whales.

“If you don’t have a way of tracking who’s who, you can double-count some whales or miss them altogether,” Weller says.

“The biggest advantage of the new system is that it vastly increases our sample size. That means we can more accurately estimate the size of the population.”

Some of the thermal imaging footage can be seen here, with a passing whale being overtaken by a flock of birds and a pod of dolphins appearing in the foreground.

South Carolina waters, right whale calving habitat


This video from the USA says about itself:

Act right now! Save the North Atlantic Right Whale

7 January 2013

With fewer than 500 remaining, the North Atlantic right whale is on the brink of extinction. The biggest threat to these animals was – and still is – man. Right whale populations were depleted to near extinction by whaling and are still struggling to recover. Because right whales are coastal and spend most of their lives in waters also heavily used by humans, 72% of their known mortality is attributed to either being struck by a vessel or entangled in commercial fishing gear. But it doesn’t have to be this way! With small changes humans and whales can share these areas without continuing to push this species to extinction. …

To learn more or sign the petition to increase protection for the North Atlantic right whale, visit our website: whales.org.

From The Post and Courier in the USA:

South Carolina waters proposed as right whale calving critical habitat

Bo Petersen

Feb 17 2015 6:21 pm

Ten years after the first reports of newborn right whales off South Carolina startled observers, federal regulators propose to include waters off the coast in the “critical habitat” calving grounds for the imperiled species.

The grounds and critical area have been in southern Georgia and northern Florida, but eyewitness reports and survey flights have shown the whales calved over a wider range. The proposal was forced by a court order, after a number of conservation groups petitioned the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in 2009 for the move, then sued in 2014 after delays in handling the petition.

It must move through an exhaustive review and public hearing process, but the proposal would expand the habitat from Florida and southern Georgia to southern North Carolina.

“Survey data and other studies over the past 20 years have increased our understanding of right whale ecology and habitat needs,” said Eileen Sobeck, NOAA fisheries administrator in announcing the move.

The designation would mean one more hurdle in a laborious process to win federal permits for offshore activities. It follows earlier controversial moves to protect the whales, including a 2013 NOAA requirement that makes large ships slow down in right whale waters.

Right whales are the rarest of the large whales, 40-ton creatures whose curious two-plume breathing spray and the lack of a dorsal fin distinguish them from other whales. Hunted to the brink of extinction a century ago, the critically endangered species now numbers 450 to 500 in the north Atlantic Ocean.

The whales have turned the corner toward potential recovery from a low of fewer than 300, thanks to awareness and conservation efforts. But the calving numbers have dropped in recent years, and the whales remain imperiled. Every whale alive is considered vital to the survival of the species.

Ship strikes, line entanglements and noise pollution are considered the biggest threats.

“It stops your heart for a second” to see a right whale, said Pawleys Island boater Mike Robino, who in 2005 piloted a vessel taking a state veterinarian offshore to confirm a report of a newborn calf and mom in the surf. “You realize how truly small you are compared to that animal. Having been up close and personal (to the whale), you can’t help but think if we can help them we should.”

Robino’s trip came after a sighting was made by a beach house roofer on the island. Even confirmed, the birth was considered a fluke. But survey flights begun shortly afterward found, on average, more than a dozen whales per year off South Carolina, including mothers and new calves.

The habitat proposal comes after a number of earlier protections, including a controversial rule requiring large ships to slow down near the coast when the whales are in season. The requirement was widely opposed by commercial shipping interests. The South Carolina Ports Authority helped fund survey flights out of Charleston for five years, partially to gauge the effectiveness of the rule.

“The (ports authority) will work in good faith with the U.S. Department of Commerce (NOAA and the National Marine Fisheries Service) to finalize the designation of shipping lanes developed through the evaluation of available science,” the S.C. ports agency said in reaction to the NOAA critical habitat proposal.

Survey flights ended here in 2012 due the loss of funding. They now fly the Florida-Georgia calving ground. A sighting alert network is still in place for shipping and other interests, but off South Carolina it now depends on private reports. No reports have been made this season.

NOAA did not immediately reply to questions asking what effect a critical habitat designation would have on current plans to permit sonic-boom tests and potentially drill for natural gas or oil offshore, or on military activities. Navy warfare and sonar training in the same waters recently were re-permitted without significant restrictions, despite scientific evidence the noise can deafen the whales.

The “critical habitat” proposal also would expand feeding grounds in the Gulf of Maine/Georges Bank region, according to the NOAA release.