Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Understanding the vulnerable northern bottlenose whale

Date:
November 21, 2010
Source:
Dalhousie University
Summary:
The northern bottlenose whale is a strange creature. They have a long, stout body with a bulbous forehead -- called a "melon" -- and a short, tube-like snout. Hunted for centuries for their oil (and until the 1970s for dog food), there may be only 160 of these gentle giants in the population found off Nova Scotia.

Northern bottlenose whale.
Credit: Image courtesy of Dalhousie University

The northern bottlenose whale -- Hyperoodon ampullatus -- is a strange creature. They have a long, stout body with a bulbous forehead -- called a "melon" -- and a short, tube-like snout.

Hunted for centuries for their oil (and until the 1970s for dog food), there may be only 160 of these gentle giants in the population found off Nova Scotia. In 2006, this population (known as the Scotian Shelf population) was designated as endangered by the Canadian Species At Risk Act.

They can be hard animals to study. For one thing, it's tough to get out to their prime habitat (in deep submarine canyons along the edge of the Scotian Shelf, about 200 kilometres offshore of Nova Scotia), especially in the winter when the weather is rough. Secondly, they're a deep-diving species which spends most of their time underwater. They make long, deep dives sometimes for 70 minutes, reaching depths of more than 1,400 metres. They surface to breathe for about 10 minutes, before diving down again in search of their primary prey, the armhook squid.

Not that the difficulty in conducting research has discouraged Hilary Moors. The PhD candidate with Hal Whitehead's Cetacean Research Lab of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, just calls them on the "hydrophone."

Well, sort of. The hydrophone is a scientific instrument that's been positioned on the ocean floor to record sounds.

She's been able to make recordings of the northern bottlenose whale's underwater vocalizations. The whale's echo-location signals, used to help them navigate and locate food in dark murky waters, sound like high-pitched clicks as captured by the hydrophone.

One of the questions Ms. Moors has answered is whether the population that frequents The Gully, a Marine Protected Area on the edge of the Scotian Shelf, is year-round or migrating. It's an important question, particularly as scientists attempt to determine if oil and gas development activities in the vicinity have impacted at all on the population.

"We knew they were around in the summer, but the winter? That's what I wanted to find out," says Ms. Moors, who works part-time for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans as a marine mammal observer. "What we've been able to determine is that they're generally out there in the winter as much as they are in the summer."

Last summer, Ms. Moors observed the whales as part of the crew aboard Dr. Whitehead's 12-metre sailboat and floating research station, Balaena.

"Pretty much anytime you go out, you can see them. They're very curious and they love to check us out," she says.

Joining the expedition this summer was Kristin O'Brien, a master's student originally from Surrey, B.C. Her job was to photograph the whales at the surface; the nicks and gouges in the dorsal fin can help researchers identify individual animals.

"When you're out there, you don't see land for weeks, but we do see lots of marine life -- northern bottlenose whales, blue whales, which are also endangered, pilot whales and Sowerby's beaked whales"

"It's almost like living in a camper," adds Ms. Moors. "You'll either love it or hate it, but I think for me, it's made me very enthusiastic about the research."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Dalhousie University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Dalhousie University. "Understanding the vulnerable northern bottlenose whale." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 November 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101119201955.htm>.
Dalhousie University. (2010, November 21). Understanding the vulnerable northern bottlenose whale. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101119201955.htm
Dalhousie University. "Understanding the vulnerable northern bottlenose whale." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101119201955.htm (accessed July 23, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Michigan Plant's Goal: Flower and Die

Michigan Plant's Goal: Flower and Die

AP (July 22, 2014) An 80-year-old agave plant, which is blooming for the first and only time at a University of Michigan conservatory, will die when it's done (July 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
San Diego Zoo Welcomes New, Rare Rhino Calf

San Diego Zoo Welcomes New, Rare Rhino Calf

Reuters - US Online Video (July 21, 2014) An endangered black rhino baby is the newest resident at the San Diego Zoo. Sasha Salama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Shark Sightings a Big Catch for Cape Tourism

Shark Sightings a Big Catch for Cape Tourism

AP (July 21, 2014) A rise in shark sightings along the shores of Chatham, Massachusetts is driving a surge of eager vacationers to the beach town looking to catch a glimpse of a great white. (July 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
$23.6 Billion Awarded To Widow In Smoking Lawsuit

$23.6 Billion Awarded To Widow In Smoking Lawsuit

Newsy (July 20, 2014) Cynthia Robinson claims R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company hid the health and addiction risks of its products, leading to the death of her husband in 1996. 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