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.

Related Articles


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 December 20, 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 December 20, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) — In Yarumal, a village in N. Colombia, Alzheimer's has ravaged a disproportionately large number of families. A genetic "curse" that may pave the way for research on how to treat the disease that claims a new victim every four seconds. Duration: 02:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Monarch Butterflies Descend Upon Mexican Forest During Annual Migration

Monarch Butterflies Descend Upon Mexican Forest During Annual Migration

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Dec. 19, 2014) — Millions of monarch butterflies begin to descend onto Mexico as part of their annual migration south. Rough Cut (no reporter narration) Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Birds Might Be Better Meteorologists Than Us

Birds Might Be Better Meteorologists Than Us

Newsy (Dec. 19, 2014) — A new study suggests a certain type of bird was able to sense a tornado outbreak that moved through the U.S. a day before it hit. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Dec. 18, 2014) — The U.S. Navy unveils an underwater device that mimics the movement of a fish. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

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