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Whale, dolphin and porpoise strandings

9 Posts tagged with the research tag
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A few weeks ago I put up a post about the unprecedented numbers of bottlenose dolphins stranding off the Gulf Coast Dead dolphins still a concern on Gulf Coast

 

Further to this story, a live animal has been found, this will give the researchers a good chance to study the animal and hopefully see if they can untangle whats going on. Fingers crossed 'Chance' as the locals have named it, survives!

 

Four more dolphins washed up on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico this week. For coastal residents from Louisiana to Florida, the beached animals are a familair sight: hundreds of decomposing dolphin carcasses have turned up over the last two years.

 

But last week, Alabama residents came across a stranded dolphin that was still alive, though badly injured.

 

Moby Solangi, director of the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport, Miss., where the rescued dolphin is being cared for and studied, said the discovery presented the institute’s first opportunity in two years to examine a live dolphin that was ill.

 

The researchers hope that studying the dolphin will yield clues to the principal cause of the die-off. “People in Alabama call it Chance,” Dr. Solangi said of the survivor

 

 

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Source: http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/12/01/among-hundreds-of-dead-an-intriguing-survivor/

 

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This is a very cool project!

 

 

The people at St Andrews in Scotland, they have tagged 25 pilot and killer whales in various locations and recorded their calls. They are now asking volunteers to match up the vocalisations, to help them better understand their communication. 'Citizen Scientists' from around the world are being asked to listen to and classify the various calls.

 

The increasing size of current acoustic datasets and the large call repertoire make it very difficult for scientists to address these questions. A single person would take months to go through the data, and the outcome would still depend on a single persons’ interpretation.

 

For this reason we want to ask you to help us solve this problem, by categorizing the calls of killer whales pilot whales that you find on this website. The dataset generated by this project will allow us to address interesting questions, such as:

 

  • How well do different judgements of volunteers agree, and how well can we categorize calls of vocal species such as pilot whales?
  • How large is the call repertoire of pilot whales? (is size repertoire sign of intelligence?)
    • Do the long and short finned pilot whales have different call repertoires (or ‘dialects’?).
    • Does this repertoire change during sonar transmissions? if so, how does this related to changes in behavior of the individuals and the group as a whole?

     

     

    Go to http://whale.fm/ to take part!

     

    Write up from the BBC as well: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-edinburgh-east-fife-15929295

     

     

    Right I'm off to match up a few more calls before lunch! (hope my boss isn't reading this!)

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    Good Halloween title for you there!

     

    Apart from recording stranded cetaceans, we are also linked to various research project. One is run by Dr Adrian Glover here at the museum and in simple terms he studies what lives off whale bone that has sunk to the bottom of the sea.

     

     

    Bone-eating ‘zombie’ worms may be good at keeping out of sight, living off dead whales in the darkness of the sea floor, but scientists have found out how to detect them, even if there’s no trace of their bodies or a few million years have gone by!

     

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    There is an interesting artical about it on the front page but here is a link  http://www.nhm.ac.uk/about-us/news/2011/october/bone-eating-zombie-worms-can-no-longer-hide105243.html

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    We ladies have been known to go to great lenghts for softer skin but new research suggests killer whales may be showing us all up!

     

    A new study for the first time shows that some killer whales wander nearly 10,000 kilometres from Antarctica's Southern Ocean into tropical waters - but not to feed or breed.

      
    Rather, these fearsome predators at the apex of the marine food chain traverse the sea at top speed, slowing as they reach warmer climes to exfoliate, the study speculates.
      
    They are driven, in other words, by the urge or need to make their skin all shiny and new.
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    Durban and Pitman suspect that killer whales move into warmer waters in order to shed a layer, along with an encrustation of single-celled algae called diatoms, without freezing to death.
      
    Orcas are the smallest cetaceans, a group including whales and dolphins, which live for extended periods in subzero Antarctic waters. Replacing and repairing outer skin in waters where the surface temperature is minus 1.9 degree Celsius, may be dangerous, even lethal.
      
    Surface temperatures at the killer whales' tropical destinations, by contrast, were a balmy 20.9 to 24.2 C.

    Original source: http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/1599657/latest-from-wire/

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    You don't have to look deep into your hearts to know that keeping these animals in tanks just feels wrong. I think the caption on the picture says it all really.

     

     

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    In a new study, nearly a year in the making, former SeaWorld trainers Jeffrey Ventre, MD and John Jett, Ph.D, take us deep behind the scenes of Marine parks and their ability to provide environments adequate for keeping killer whales alive in captivity.


    Drs Ventre and Jett introduce us to detailed observations and strong statistical calculations that add up to an abundance of evidence that captivity kills orcas, usually at a young age… and that stresses, social tensions and poor health are chronic issues in marine park facilities.

     

    Interview with Jeff Ventre: http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2011/09/killer-whale-trainer/

     

    Full report: https://theorcaproject.wordpress.com/2011/01/20/keto-tilikum-express-stress-of-orca-captivity/

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    I'd like to pretend I'm a bigger person than I am and say I'm in no way jealous of this lady, but I can't, what a cool job! Worth clicking the link to watch the video.

     

     

    Next year Dr. Herzing plans to begin a new phase of her research, something she says has been a lifetime goal: real-time two-way communication, in which dolphins take the initiative to interact with humans.

    Up to now, dolphins have shown themselves to be adept at responding to human prompts, with food as a reward for performing a task. “It’s rare that we ask dolphins to seek something from us,” Dr. Herzing said.

    But if she is right, the dolphins will seek to communicate with humans, and the reward will be social interaction itself, with dolphins and humans perhaps developing a crude vocabulary for objects and actions.

     

     

    Source with a really good video: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/20/science/20dolphin.html?_r=1

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    When they say 'found' they don't mean as in down the back of the sofa, didn't know it was there. More, they though it was something else but research and DNA shows its a new species.

     

    Previous research had shown that the DNA found in the dolphins differed from that of the known bottlenose speciesTursiops truncatus and Tursiops aduncus.

     

    But in order to define a new species, more evidence is needed. Kate Charlton-Robb of Monash University in Melbourne and her colleagues studied dolphin skulls found in a number of museums, as well as more detailed analysis of DNA, to show that T. australis is clearly a different animal.

     

     

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    Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-14921665

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    The sonar vs. strandings debate has always been a very contentious one, and one I'm not going to comment on. However it is fantastic to see the US Navy taking the problem seriously and conducting some research.

     

    That’s why a team of marine mammal specialists, engineers, acousticians, and biologists were placing suction cup tags on whales and dolphins from the Santa Monica Bay to the Orange County Coast these past few days.

     

    The tags gather a plethora of information including how deep the whales dive, their exact route and location and their response to loud underwater noises.

     

    This is the second year of this Navy funded study called SOCAL-11 and it seeks to determine how different species in different scenarios react to sonar.

     

    Of course the overall goal is help the Navy become environmentally compliant.

     

    “The Navy has been wonderful as they really want to discover where and when they should not be using sonar,” said senior scientist Brandon Southall from SEA and the University of California at Santa Cruz.

     


    Source: http://lagunaniguel.patch.com/articles/united-states-navy-seeks-to-understand-possible-reasons-for-whale-strandings

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    Some interesting research into feeding behaviour in Guiana dolphin.

     

    Dolphins are famous for their ability to hunt prey via echolocation. Now, scientists have discovered that at least one dolphin species, the Guiana dolphin, can also detect fish by tuning into their electrical fields. It is the first time this sense has been reported in a marine mammal—or in any placental mammal. The researchers expect that electroreception, as this sense is called, will be found in other cetacean species. Until this discovery, it was known only in fish, amphibians, and two egg-laying mammals, or monotremes, the platypus and echidna.

     

    All animals generate weak electric fields from the activity of their muscles and nerves. Species with electroreceptors can sense this bioelectric field and use it to spot prey that they can't see. And visibility is a real problem for Guiana dolphins, which live off the western Atlantic coast of Central and South America and hunt fish in turbid water and muddy sediments.

     

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    More infomation: http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2011/07/guiana-dolphins-can-use-electric.html