Category: cetacean

Hey Storytellers! We would love to hear about…

Hey Storytellers! We would love to hear about the first cetacean you saw in the wild! Tell us about it in the comments!⠀
#whaletales #whales #dolphins #cetacean #storytelling #sharingiscaring #whalewatching #getonaboat #spinnerdolphin
https://www.instagram.com/p/BneRSfdlX5V/?utm_source=ig_tumblr_share&igshid=192gaa8paclof

oceansoftheworld: (Photos/Info) The gray whal…

oceansoftheworld:

(Photos/Info)

The gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus), also known as the grey whale, gray back whale, Pacific gray whale, or California gray whale is a baleen whale that migrates between feeding and breeding grounds yearly. It reaches a length of 14.9 meters (49 ft), a weight of 36 tonnes (40 short tons), and lives between 55 and 70 years. The common name of the whale comes from the gray patches and white mottling on its dark skin. Gray whales were once called devil fish because of their fighting behavior when hunted.The gray whale is the sole living species in the genus Eschrichtius, which in turn is the sole living genus in the family Eschrichtiidae. This mammal descended from filter-feeding whales that appeared at the beginning of the Oligocene, over 30 million years ago.

Happy Father’s Day! While its quite diff…

Happy Father’s Day! While its quite difficult to know Dad’s in the cetacean world, Migaloo is thought to have sired at least two offspring. A genetic sample is needed to confirm this, as well as all paternity in the whale world!
Hope the human Dad’s out there have a great day!
PC: CraigParryPhotography
#whaletales #fathersday #migaloo #fathersday2018 #humpback #albino #whales #whalesofinstagram #whalesareawesome #whalewatching #getonaboat #happyfathersday #cetacean

Happy Father’s Day! While its quite diff…

Happy Father’s Day! While its quite difficult to know Dad’s in the cetacean world, Migaloo is thought to have sired at least two offspring. A genetic sample is needed to confirm this, as well as all paternity in the whale world!
Hope the human Dad’s out there have a great day!
PC: CraigParryPhotography
#whaletales #fathersday #migaloo #fathersday2018 #humpback #albino #whales #whalesofinstagram #whalesareawesome #whalewatching #getonaboat #happyfathersday #cetacean

Happy Father’s Day! While its quite diff…

Happy Father’s Day! While its quite difficult to know Dad’s in the cetacean world, Migaloo is thought to have sired at least two offspring. A genetic sample is needed to confirm this, as well as all paternity in the whale world!
Hope the human Dad’s out there have a great day!
PC: CraigParryPhotography
#whaletales #fathersday #migaloo #fathersday2018 #humpback #albino #whales #whalesofinstagram #whalesareawesome #whalewatching #getonaboat #happyfathersday #cetacean

seatrench: The Sperm Whale is the largest too…

seatrench:

The Sperm Whale is the largest toothed predator.  They are one of the three species in the Sperm Whale family,  along with the Dwarf Sperm Whale and the Pygmy Sperm Whale.  Adult Sperm Whales can reach up to 12m in length,  with the head making up about a third of the body.  The Sperm Whales blow is pointed forward and to the left,  giving a distinctive spout.

(source)

Hey Storytellers! Did you know that we take #…

Hey Storytellers! Did you know that we take #whaletales about any species? Being from Vancouver BC we are lucky enough to hear many many stories about the cetaceans in the Salish Sea but we have stories about Beaked Whales, Right Whales and even Blue Whales! Whatever #cetacean you saw, whenever or wherever you saw it, we would love to hear your whale tale!
Photo by @grakav
#whales #dolphins #porpoises #storytelling #sharingiscaring #photography #whalewatching #cetaceans #getonaboat #getoutside #orca #whalesareawesome #dolphinsrareawesome #duskydolphins #porpoiseareawesome

252mya: Pakicetus sp. Artwork by Lucas Lima It…

252mya:

Pakicetus sp.

Artwork by Lucas Lima

It lived roughly 50 million years ago and is widely regarded as the earliest known whale. With its four long legs, it was more similar in appearance to its even-toed ungulate relatives, like pigs and the hippopotamus.

252MYA creates custom-made artwork for private collections and editorial, scientific, or educational project.

Mysterious Strangers: Alaska’s Understudied Ki…

Mysterious Strangers: Alaska’s Understudied Killer Whales

Alaska is vast; the state holds more coastline than the contiguous United States combined. With its short summers, fierce winters, and weather than can change in the blink of an eye, oceanic field research is difficult and often severely limited.

Studies on Alaska’s killer whales began in in the early 80s in the Kenai Fjords and Prince William Sound region in southcentral Alaska. Biologists, such as Craig Matkin and Eva Saulitis, began documenting individual resident and transient pods that traversed the region. After many years of effort, they eventually developed a identification catalog of killer whales ranging from Kodiak Island to Southeast Alaska. In total, they identified over 700 individual resident killer whales and over 100 Gulf of Alaska transient killer whales in these regions. These whales are fairly well-studied and we know much about their distribution, feeding habits, travel patterns, and behavior. 

However, there is another group of killer whales Alaska that is more than double the size of the southern Alaska resident killer whale population. Biologists have estimated that there are over 1,500 resident killer whales alone that live in Western Alaska in the waters of the Bering Sea and off the Aleutian Islands. There are also unique groups of transients who appear to be separated from the Gulf of Alaska transients. Who are these whales? What do they eat? Where do they travel? 

Click below to read more about Alaska’s mysterious killer whales.

We do know some things: resident killer whales in Western Alaska likely depend more on non-salmon prey, such as Atka mackerel. These whales are also known thieves; resident killer whales in the Bering Sea are known to depredate local commercial fishing operations. They are adept and skilled at removing halibut, turbot, and blackcod from longliners (to read more about killer whale depredation in Alaska, check out my article in Orcazine.)

The transients in Western Alaska are big, burly, and frequently take down large baleen whales as prey. In Unimak Pass in the Aleutian Islands, there is a seasonal gathering of transient killer whales that assembles in order to intercept migrating gray whales. 

A subadult male killer whale attacking a gray whale in Western Alaska. Photo by John Durban.

These transients don’t appear to linger around after the gray whale migration. Tagging studies show they disperse into the Bering Sea. Some transients in Western Alaska also appear to focus their energy on fur seal colonies around the Pribilof Islands; these fur seal “specialists” are genetically related to transients found off the coast of Russia. 

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of Western Alaska’s transients is their potential range. One tagged transient in the Bering Sea traveled rapidly over 1220 miles towards the central sub-tropical Pacific, roughly halfway to Hawaii. These forays into warmer waters are also evident on their skin. Some transients in Alaska bear the oval scars from cookie-cutter sharks, which are only found in the tropics and subtropics. What are they doing? Where are they going? Are these long-distance trips regular for these animals? What are they eating when they aren’t in Alaska? The answers to these questions is still unknown.

A male transient in the Central Aleutian Islands bearing cookie cutter shark bite scars.  Photo by Dave Ellifrit, NOAA Alaska Fisheries Science Center, NMFS
Permit No. 782-1719.

While Western Alaska holds some of the most tantalizing killer whale mysteries, some pods of southern Alaska residents are as equally mystifying. Many resident pods are documented every year and are easy to track and study. Others, however, are evasive and where they go and what they do is unknown. AP pod is a great example of this. This pod of about ~19 individuals was photographed in 2003 and 2012 by biologists. They are so poorly known that for a long time they were placed in a category of whales known as the “gray box” residents, an assemblage of individual whales that were only seen once or twice and pod relations could not be worked out. In 2012 they were placed into their own pod category, but family relationships are still unknown. 

I was fortunate enough to photograph and spend time with AP pod for several weeks in 2017. They appeared one day in Kachemak Bay, Alaska out of the blue and for whatever reason, stuck around for over a month. I documented new calves and I believe I have worked out some family relationships. It may be many more years before AP pod is seen again; we don’t know their range or where they spend most of their time.  

AP pod male AP18 and a female, probably AP7. 

Some resident pods in Alaska are so poorly known that not even established biologists have records of them. Last summer, I photographed a large pod of residents in Kachemak Bay. These whales were distinct and easy to identify. Surely, they would be in the catalogs. Despite weeks of painstakingly analyzing and comparing photographs, I could not find no matches to identified killer whales. I emailed the photos to Alaska’s killer whale biologists and they too could not identify the whales. It is likely they are a newly documented resident pod. 

An adult male from the newly documented resident pod. Note the yellow patches on the saddle patch; these are diatoms, a type of algae that grows in cold waters, indicating this whale may have been in colder, more Arctic waters recently.

However, which population are they from? Western Alaska, or the southern Alaska resident population? Kachemak Bay sits neatly in the middle of southcentral Alaska, nestled between the vast western Alaska regions and the more populated areas of Prince William Sound and Southeast Alaska. While there has been no documented movement from Western Alaska killer whales into the region where southern Alaska residents inhabit, I have always had a hunch that Kachemak Bay may be a mixing zone of sorts. Given that these whales were traveling with AX27 pod, a fairly well-known southern Alaska resident pod, they are likely from said population, but I will always wonder. 

There are still so many things to learn about Alaska’s killer whales. With a little luck and more time, we will hopefully unravel some of these mysteries.

References

https://www.orcanetwork.org/Main/PDF/WhalewatcheVol40No12011.pdf

http://aquaticcommons.org/8907/

Resident Killer Whales: The Ocean’s Most Dedic…

Resident Killer Whales: The Ocean’s Most Dedicated Mother

On Mother’s Day, many of us take the time to honor our mothers and all of the time, energy, effort, and love that has gone into raising their children. 

For resident killer whales, an unnamed subspecies of killer whale found only in the North Pacific, motherly love transcends all other boundaries found in the animal kingdom. In resident killer whale society, a female’s offspring never leave her side. 

This phenomenon, known as natal philopatry, is seen in many species, but killer whales take it to a whole new level. Both female AND male offspring stay with their mother for their entire lives. Natal philopatry of both sexes is very rare in mammals, being seen only in two bat species, pilot whales, and of course, resident killer whales. [1]

Male resident killer whales in particular are true “mama’s boys.’ While mature female killer whales will retain some degree of independence from their mothers, males are extremely dependent on their mothers. In fact, a male resident killer whale is 3.1 times more likely to die in the year following the death of his mother. For males over the age of 30, the risk of death increases over 8 times after the death of their mothers. This may be because older mothers often provision their adult male offspring. Without mom around to help feed him, a male may have more difficulty surviving. For males, having mom around also means they have higher reproductive success. [1] [2]

Alaskan resident male AP10 and his probable mother, AP2. 

Killer whale moms are so important that they are one of only a few species to display reproductive senescence, also known as menopause. In most animal species, a female continues to reproduce for her entire life. In killer whales, females generally stop reproducing around 40 years of age, but can easily live 30-40 years more after reproduction ceases. One main hypothesis that explains this curious aspect of killer whale biology is that elderly female killer whales are repositories of information that aid in group survival. These “grandma” killer whales are the leaders of pod movement during foraging, and their leadership is especially important in years when salmon––resident killer whales’ main prey source––is low. [3]

Moms are important to us all, but for killer whales, a mother is the ultimate key to survival. Without such dedicated mothers, killer whale society as we know it would likely be radically different. 

Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers out there, especially the ones of the flippered variety.

For further reading, please refer to the sources under the cut.

1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0003347216000737

2. http://science.sciencemag.org/content/337/6100/1313

3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25754636