Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Sperm Whales Drawn To Waters Off Mississippi River Delta

Date:
May 28, 2001
Source:
National Sea Grant College Program
Summary:
Researchers have found that endangered sperm whales frequent the deeper waters off the Mississippi Delta. Scientists estimate that at least 530 sperm whales can be found in the northeastern Gulf of Mexico.

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- When people think of the Mississippi Delta, a few things are likely to come to mind -- jambalaya, New Orleans jazz, riverboats, cotton, swamps and sperm whales.

Sperm whales?

Researchers have found that endangered sperm whales frequent the deeper waters off the Mississippi Delta. Scientists estimate that at least 530 sperm whales can be found in the northeastern Gulf of Mexico.

In a Texas-Sea-Grant-funded project, Texas A&M University at Galveston marine biologists Randall Davis and Bernd Würsig will use satellite tracking, direct observation, genetic analyses and photographic identification to learn more about these large marine mammals that live so close to the coast.

Davis said coldwater eddies and the outflow of nutrients from the Mississippi River may enhance the production of food for these marine mammals and draw the animals nearer to coastal waters. The Mississippi Delta region of the Gulf also has water that's several thousand meters deep within 50 or 60 miles of the coast, he said, and sperm whales are typically found in these deeper waters along the continental shelf.

"The unique aspect of the Gulf is we have a continental shelf that is only about 25 miles wide off the Mississippi Delta, so we have this influx of freshwater nutrients into a deepwater environment very close to the coast," he said.

While this area of the Gulf of Mexico is popular with sperm whales, it is also home to a lot of oil and gas exploration. These activities, and the increasing boat traffic they bring, may be a cause for concern as far as their effects on the region's whales, he said.

"Basically, we probably have a breeding population of endangered sperm whales right in the middle of one of the hottest areas for offshore oil development in the continental U.S," Davis said.

As part of the study, researchers will tag whales with tracking devices that will follow the movements of the whales and record information on how often a whale dives -- which can be linked to feeding -- the duration of the dive and the depth of the dive. When the whale surfaces, the device relays the information back to researchers via satellite.

This information will help researchers learn more about the feeding behavior of sperm whales, Davis said. Currently, they can only get this information from observing sperm whales feeding and analyzing the stomach contents of a whale -- neither of which is easily done.

"Without being able to make direct observations on these deepwater whales, it's surprising how little we know about their natural history," he said.

The project is set up as a basic science study that looks at the natural history of sperm whales in the northern Gulf of Mexico. However, Davis said the study's findings would likely be of interest to the Marine Mammal Commission, National Marine Fisheries Service as well as the Minerals Management Service, which oversees development of offshore oil and gas deposits.

The Endangered Species Act requires officials to monitor not only oil pollution but also noise pollution, which comes from boat traffic and seismic activity that is used to search for oil.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Sea Grant College Program. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

National Sea Grant College Program. "Sperm Whales Drawn To Waters Off Mississippi River Delta." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 May 2001. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/05/010525072138.htm>.
National Sea Grant College Program. (2001, May 28). Sperm Whales Drawn To Waters Off Mississippi River Delta. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/05/010525072138.htm
National Sea Grant College Program. "Sperm Whales Drawn To Waters Off Mississippi River Delta." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/05/010525072138.htm (accessed July 25, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Boy Attacked by Shark in Florida

Boy Attacked by Shark in Florida

Reuters - US Online Video (July 24, 2014) — An 8-year-old boy is bitten in the leg by a shark while vacationing at a Florida beach. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 24, 2014) — The eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, mainly known for conflict and instability, is an unlikely place for the production of fine cheese. But a farm in the village of Masisi, in North Kivu is slowly transforming perceptions of the area. Known simply as Goma cheese, the Congolese version of Dutch gouda has gained popularity through out the region. Ciara Sutton reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dogs Appear To Become Jealous Of Owners' Attention

Dogs Appear To Become Jealous Of Owners' Attention

Newsy (July 23, 2014) — A U.C. San Diego researcher says jealousy isn't just a human trait, and dogs aren't the best at sharing the attention of humans with other dogs. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Professor Creates Site Revealing Where People's Cats Live

Professor Creates Site Revealing Where People's Cats Live

Newsy (July 23, 2014) — ​It's called I Know Where Your Cat Lives, and you can keep hitting the "Random Cat" button to find more real cats all over the world. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

    Health News

      Environment News

        Technology News



          Save/Print:
          Share:  

          Free Subscriptions


          Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

          Get Social & Mobile


          Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

          Have Feedback?


          Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
          Mobile iPhone Android Web
          Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
          Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
          Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins