Tag Archives: Cetacean

Whale microbiome shares characteristics with both ruminants, predators

To some, it may not come as a surprise to learn that the great whales are carnivores, feeding on tiny shrimp-like animals such as krill. Moreover, it might not be surprising to find that the microbes that live in whale guts -the so-called microbiome- resemble those of other meat eaters. But scientists now have evidence […]

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Dolphins use extra energy to communicate in noisy waters

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Scientists trained dolphins to whistle at different sound levels under a hood that measures oxygen consumption as an indicator of their metabolic rate. The dolphins are part of Dr. Terrie Williams’ Mammalian Physiology lab at the University of California Santa Cruz. All procedures were approved by the UC Santa Cruz Institutional Animal Care and Use […]

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World’s whaling slaughter tallied

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The first global estimate of the number of whales killed by industrial harvesting last century reveals that nearly 3 million cetaceans were wiped out in what may have been the largest cull of any animal — in terms of total biomass — in human history. The devastation wrought on whales by twentieth-century hunting is well […]

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Heart arrhythmias detected in deep-diving marine mammals

A new study of dolphins and seals shows that despite their remarkable adaptations to aquatic life, exercising while holding their breath remains a physiological challenge for marine mammals. The study, published January 15 in Nature Communications, found a surprisingly high frequency of heart arrhythmias in bottlenose dolphins and Weddell seals during the deepest dives. The […]

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Iberian orcas, increasingly trapped

Thanks to the more than 11,200 sightings of cetaceans over the course of ten years, Spanish and Portuguese researchers have been able to identify, in detail, the presence of orcas in the Gulf of Cadiz, the Strait of Gibraltar and the Alboran Sea. According to the models that have been generated, the occurrence of these […]

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*Dolphin ‘breathalyzer’ could help diagnose animal and ocean health

Alcohol consumption isn’t the only thing a breath analysis can reveal. Scientists have been studying its possible use for diagnosing a wide range of conditions in humans — and now in the beloved bottlenose dolphin. In a report in the ACS journal Analytical Chemistry, one team describes a new instrument that can analyze the metabolites […]

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Killer whales learn to communicate like dolphins

From barks to gobbles, the sounds that most animals use to communicate are innate, not learned. However, a few species, including humans, can imitate new sounds and use them in appropriate social contexts. This ability, known as vocal learning, is one of the underpinnings of language. Vocal learning has also been observed in bats, some […]

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Dolphins are attracted to magnets: Add dolphins to the list of magnetosensitive animals, French researchers say

Add dolphins to the list of magnetosensitive animals, French researchers say. Dolphins are indeed sensitive to magnetic stimuli, as they behave differently when swimming near magnetized objects. So says Dorothee Kremers and her colleagues at Ethos unit of the Université de Rennes in France, in a study in Springer’s journal Naturwissenschaften — The Science of […]

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Ecotourism rise hits whales

Whale-watching trips often come into very close contact with the animals. Boat trips to watch whales and dolphins may increasingly be putting the survival of marine mammals at risk, conservationists have warned. Research published this year shows that the jaunts can affect cetacean behaviour and stress levels in addition to causing deaths from collisions. But […]

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A whale with a distinctly human-like voice

For the first time, researchers have been able to show by acoustic analysis that whales — or at least one very special white whale — can imitate the voices of humans. That’s a surprise, because whales typically produce sounds in a manner that is wholly different from humans, say researchers who report their findings in […]

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Building a bigger dolphin brain

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In the world of big brains, humans have very few competitors. Dolphins come closest, with a brain to body weight ratio just below ours and just above chimpanzees. Now, a new analysis of these sharp swimmers reveals for the first time some of the genetic changes that led dolphins to evolve such large noggins. “Dolphins […]

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New sensory organ found in rorqual whales

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Scientists at the University of British Columbia and the Smithsonian Institution have discovered a sensory organ in rorqual whales that coordinates its signature lunge-feeding behaviour — and may help explain their enormous size. Rorquals are a subgroup of baleen whales — including blue, fin, minke and humpback whales. They are characterized by a special, accordion-like […]

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Iconic marine mammals are ‘swimming in sick seas’ of terrestrial pathogens

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Parasites and pathogens infecting humans, pets and farm animals are increasingly being detected in marine mammals such as sea otters, porpoises, harbour seals and killer whales along the Pacific coast of the U.S. and Canada, and better surveillance is required to monitor public health implications, according to a panel of scientific experts from Canada and […]

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Baby bumps slow dolphins down

For bottlenose dolphin moms-to-be, baby bumps are literally a drag. A new study shows that the animals pay a considerable price for their prenatal girth, which causes them to swim slower as they face more resistance from the water. The finding offers a first look at how pregnancy diminishes performance in cetaceans and may have […]

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Dual parasitic infections deadly to marine mammals

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A study of tissue samples from 161 marine mammals that died between 2004 and 2009 in the Pacific Northwest reveals an association between severe illness and co-infection with two kinds of parasites normally found in land animals. One, Sarcocystis neurona, is a newcomer to the northwest coastal region of North America and is not known […]

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Humpback whales’ dining habits — and costs

Some large marine mammals are known for their extraordinarily long dive times. Elephant seals, for example, can stay underwater for an hour at a time by lowering their heartbeat and storing large amounts of oxygen in their muscles. “Weighing up to 40 tons, humpback whales and their close relatives have relatively short dive times given […]

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Thinking ahead? An animal couldn’t do that, could it?

Many researchers working on animal cognition, however, believe that some species can indeed remember their past and plan for the future. Proving that this is the case is notoriously difficult. In studies of humans, memories and thoughts about the future are measured by asking the volunteer to verbalise what they are thinking or what motivated […]

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How to sex a dolphin

Assessing the ratio of males to females in endangered populations is vital for conservation work. But sexing a dolphin is tricky — not least because the crucial parts of the mammal are usually concealed beneath the waves. Researchers generally have to rely on time-consuming observations, either inferring a female’s sex from its close association with […]

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Beaked whales actually hear through their throats

Researchers from San Diego State University and the University of California have been using computer models to mimic the effects of underwater noise on an unusual whale species and have discovered a new pathway for sound entering the head and ears. Advances in Finite Element Modeling (FEM), Computed tomography (CT) scanning, and computer processing have […]

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Newborn dolphins go a month without sleep

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Newborn dolphins and killer whales do not sleep for a whole month after birth, new research has revealed, and neither do their mothers, who stay awake to keep a close eye on their offspring. The feat of wakefulness is remarkable given that rats die if forcibly denied sleep. And in humans, as any new parent […]

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Australian dolphins learn to hunt with sponges stuck to their noses

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Bottlenose dolphins are known to be smart, but a study of tool use has emphasized just how clever these mammals can be. Female dolphins in an Australian bay seem to be learning from their mothers how to stick marine sponges on their noses to help them hunt for fish, researchers say. “It is the first […]

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Exceptional whale fossil found in Egyptian desert

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An American paleontologist and a team of Egyptians have found the most nearly complete fossilized skeleton of the primitive whale Basilosaurus isis in Egypt’s Western Desert, a university spokesman said on Monday. Philip Gingerich of the University of Michigan excavated the well-preserved skeleton, which is about 40 million years old, in a desert valley known […]

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Scientists artificially inseminate whale

After bringing in a parade of males and watching for years as nature never took its course, scientists at Mystic Aquarium have performed what is believed to be the first artificial insemination of a beluga whale. Aquarium scientists, with help from their peers at Sea World, artificially inseminated Kela, a 24-year-old beluga. After giving the […]

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