Arctic waters are home to many amazing animal species, including such whales as narwhals, belugas, and graceful bowheads. Today, researchers are using the travels and travails of these still-mysterious Arctic whales to illuminate the changing nature of Arctic sea ice as Earth warms.
Scientists still don’t know why hundreds of baby southern right whales are turning up dead around Patagonia, a decade after observers first saw signs of the worst die-off on record for the species, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)…
Strongest Evidence of Animal Culture Seen in Monkeys and Whales
by Michael Balter
Until fairly recently, many scientists thought that only humans had culture, but that idea is now being crushed by an avalanche of recent research with animals. Two new studies in monkeys and whales take the work further, showing how new cultural traditions can be formed and how conformity might help a species survive and prosper. The findings may also help researchers distinguish the differences between animal and human cultures.
Researchers differ on exactly how to define culture, but most agree that it involves a collective adoption and transmission of one or more behaviors among a group. Humans’ ability to create and transmit new cultural trends has helped our species dominate Earth, in large part because each new generation can benefit from the experiences of the previous one.
Researchers have found that similar, albeit much simpler, cultural transmission takes place in animals, including fish, insects, meerkats, birds, monkeys, and apes. Sometimes these cultural traits seem bizarre, such as the recently developed trend among some capuchin monkeys to poke each other’s eyeballs with their long, sharp fingernails—a behavior that originated among a small group of individuals and which has spread over time…
Scientists Say Historic Marine Mammal Protection Act Worked
by Megan Gannon
In the fall of 1972, then-President Richard Nixon signed the Marine Mammal Protection Act, providing sweeping protections for whales, dolphins, seals and other species swimming in U.S. waters whose populations had dwindled due to commercial fishing and accidental killing.
The law invigorated conservation efforts and prohibited hunting, killing, capturing and even harassing marine mammals (which we’re reminded of when beachgoers in Florida get caught riding manatees or sickly sperm whales.)
More than 40 years later, a new report shows that the law has been effective: It not only prevented extinctions that seemed imminent, but also helped some species bounce back in strong numbers, researchers say…
Researchers discover nine new species of marine organism on a whale carcass.
by Brian Switek
A dead whale is a cozy place to live. In death, splayed over the seafloor, the massive marine mammals offer deep-sea organisms an embarrassment of blubbery and bony riches that feed entire communities of unusual creatures for decades.
One such bottom buffet was found in 2010 by researchers aboard the R.R.S. James Cook as they guided a remotely operated vehicle over the seafloor around Antarctica’s South Sandwich Islands (map), the first whalefall ever seen in the vicinity of the continent.
Dead whales that sink to the seafloor have a peculiar afterlife. Sharks, crabs, and other scavengers quickly hone in on the carcass and remove most of the whale’s soft parts, such as the fat and muscle…
Help Save the World’s Best Marine Reserve: Cabo Pulmo
Established in 1995, Mexico’s Cabo Pulmo Marine National Park is slightly more than 7,000 hectares of coastal waters in the Gulf of California, offshore from the small village of Cabo Pulmo. The park’s establishment followed a period of determined lobbying by the village’s 100 or so residents, who had become alarmed at overfishing and declines in the area’s marine life. The reserve is no more than 5 kilometers (3 miles) wide and measures just 14 kilometers (almost 9 miles) north to south. And yet its impact on the marine life within it, such as these Devil Rays, has been profound – so much so that researchers have dubbed it “the most successful marine reserve in the world.”…
You can help save one of the oldest living coral reefs in the world with a click of your mouse: http://bit.ly/178KBhG
For 20,000 years, the reef of Cabo Pulmo has provided sanctuary for whale sharks, Pacific manta rays, humpback whales, dolphins and sea turtles, but today this marine reserve and the thriving sea that surrounds it is still under threat from overdevelopment.
Urge North America’s environmental authorities to support strong enforcement and protect the coral reef. Send your message!
“Various processes are known to enhance the ocean’s ability to store carbon. Sperm whales increase the levels of primary production and carbon export to the deep ocean by depositing iron rich faeces into surface waters of the Southern Ocean.
The iron rich faeces causes phytoplankton to grow and take up more carbon from the atmosphere. When the phytoplankton dies, it sinks to the deep ocean and takes the atmospheric carbon with it. By reducing the abundance of sperm whales in the Southern Ocean, whaling has resulted in an extra 2 million tonnes of carbon remaining in the atmosphere each year. “
Sea Shepherd’s Win Is Japan’s Loss: Whalers Have Worst Season Ever
Whale conservationists are applauding the dismal kill season, while the Japanese government is calling it ‘sabotage.’
by David Kirby
This year, Japanese whalers had their least successful hunting season on record, taking fewer than half the animals they killed during 2011-2012. The Japanese government blamed the meager harvest on “unforgivable sabotage” by the anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, an accusation that Sea Shepherd claims as a badge of honor.
It was a short, dismal season for the whalers, who were followed and harassed by four Sea Shepherd vessels across the waters off southwest Australia. They returned to Japan with their lowest Antarctic catch ever: just 103 minke whales, far short of their stated goal of 935. The whalers had also set out to kill 50 humpbacks and 50 fin whales, but took none.
A whale flashes a killer smile as he homes in on his lunch, off Kona, Hawaii.The photograph shows what appears to be a big grin plastered across the face of a false killer whale (Pseudorca crassidens) as he patrols the sea looking for food. American photographer Doug Perrine, 60, snapped the shot.
Don’t support theme parks that keep wild animals in confinement.
by Callie Spaide
“The dolphin smile is nature’s greatest deception,” says dolphin activist Ric O’Barry. “It creates the illusion that they’re always happy. I think this multibillion-dollar captivity industry is built on that optical illusion.”
The whales and dolphins at water parks like SeaWorld seem happy: doing backflips for crowds, eating food out of tourists’ hands. But these parks actually have a dark side the public doesn’t often see. While in the ocean, whales and dolphins travel for miles with their pods, but in theme parks, they’re forced into extremely cramped quarters and have little contact with their own species.
Highly intelligent and sensitive animals, whales and dolphins suffer while they’re in captivity. Allegations of neglect, abuse, poor water quality and cramped living quarters can make these parks a living hell for these animals…
The Amazing World of Whales Revealed in Giants of the Deep
By Brandon Keim
Few animals capture our imaginations the way whales do. As fellow mammals, there’s something immediately recognizable about them — and yet, specialized as they are for deep ocean life, they’re magically foreign, too, like visitors from another world.
From now until January 2014, people can touch that world at the American Museum of Natural History’s Whales: Giants of the Deep exhibition. It features a 58-foot-long sperm whale skeleton, a life-sized blue whale heart, and a bounty of fossils and illustrations describing the extraordinary evolutionary journey of whales, which started with 45 million years ago with terrestrial history’s largest meat-eating mammal and led to the largest animals in history, period.
For people who can’t visit in person, exhibition curator John Flynn took Wired on a tour…