A new paper by Ladd Irvine and other MMI researchers finds that the favored feeding areas of endangered blue whales along the US West Coast are crossed by heavily used shipping lanes. The paper, which was published today in PLoS ONE, notes that moving the shipping lanes off Los Angeles and San Francisco slightly could significantly decrease the probability of ships striking the whales. The analysis is the most comprehensive study of blue whales' movements ever conducted.
Scott Baker, associate director of Oregon State University's Marine Mammal Institute, agreed. "The often disreputable behavior of the whaling industry in the past, and some whaling nations today, does not inspire much confidence in a good faith return to commercial whaling," he said.
Bruce Mate tagged his first whale 35 years ago using a primitive dart emitting a VHF signal that could be heard a whopping 5 miles away—if the weather wasn’t stormy that day. Fellow scientists thought he was a bit touched in the head for thinking a tag attached to a migrating whale would survive the saltwater pounding.
A new genetic study concludes that humpback whales in three different ocean basins are distinct from one another and should be considered separate subspecies. The new study builds on previous research led by MMI’s Dr. Scott Baker and published in December 2013, which identified five distinct populations of humpback whales in the North Pacific Ocean.
In a virtual field trip, “Southern Exposure,” viewers can join Dr. Markus Horning and his colleagues as they investigate how changing sea ice conditions may impact ice-dependent polar seals, like Antarctica's Weddell seals. The website was produced by the education department of the Alaska Sea Life Center and includes multiple videos, classroom activities, lesson plans, and associated material for school teachers.
A new paper, co-authored by MMI's Ari Friedlaender, reveals that the mysterious "bio-duck" sound that has stumped researchers for decades belongs to Antarctic minke whales.
“From a preliminary look at the DNA sequences, it appears that there was a high level of genetic diversity in these whales, which is what we’d expect from pre-exploitation samples,” said Angela Sremba, a doctoral student in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at Oregon State University and lead author on the study.
In a new article in Terra magazine, Mee-ya Monnin talks about the trials and joys of working in the coldest place on earth. Mee-ya is working on her undergraduate honors thesis in Dr. Markus Horning's Pinniped Ecology Applied Research Lab.
MMI’s Jim Rice, coordinator of the Oregon Marine Mammal Stranding Network, and collaborator Debbie Duffield from Portland State University, have been busy performing necropsies on dolphins that stranded along the Oregon coast in late February. Tissue samples have been sent to OSU’s School of Veterinary Medicine, and others, for analysis. The causes of death are still undetermined. (The full article can be read in the Newport News-Times.)
A new paper in Marine Mammal Science, co-authored by MMI’s Scott Baker and Debbie Steel, describes how genetic identification of dried whale meat from a remote Pacific island helped to rediscover a new species of the rare Mesoplodon beaked whale. With the addition of Mesoplodon hotaula, there are now 22 species of the beaked whales, yet this family remains one of the most poorly described of all vertebrates.
(See also: http://dna-barcoding.blogspot.com/2014/02/an-old-new-whale-species.html)