High tech helps scientists protect whales

Feb 24, 2013 by Jean-Louis Santini
Scientists are delving deep into the travels of whales—thanks to high-tech tracking devices—to try to help protect them.

Scientists are delving deep into the travels of whales—thanks to high-tech tracking devices—to try to help protect them.

Except for a few species, global have been decimated over the last few hundred years. Many are at less than 10 percent of their original , following aggressive hunting in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Today, whales are threatened by collisions with ships, getting trapped in and from industrial acoustic disturbances caused by , said Daniel Palacios at the Institute of Marine Sciences at the University of California Santa Cruz.

To better protect them, scientists at the annual conference in Boston said they need to better understand how and when whales eat and breed, and where they travel.

But that information has been difficult to obtain, Palacios said, because scientists have only recently gotten hold of technology to track whales for up to a year.

Other have been tracked for a long time.

"But tagging and tracking such large animals has been a huge problem over the last 25 years," said Palacios.

With the newly collected data "we have examined about 200 tracks from (four) different species in different oceans basins," he added.

Whales can swim between 620 and 3,100 miles (1,000 and 5,000 kilometers) per year depending on the species

"What we see is that is that whales engage in sort of local restricted movements, and then they would take off and follow very direct paths with a very high precision," Palacios said.

Zoologists have found that —the largest animal on earth, measuring up to 32 meters (105 feet) long and weighing up to 200 tonnes—feed for several months off the coast of Santa Barbara, California, in the middle of for vessels heading to the busy port of Los Angeles.

Climate change also threatens whales, said Nicholas Pyenson, curator at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History in Washington.

"It's a very big problem because of the magnitude and rate the climate is changing," Pyenson said. "These animals are going everywhere."

Grey whales, for example, are breeding off the coast of Baja California, then swim to the Bering Sea.

"They have a very specific style of feeding on the sea floor off the coast of Alaska, so we don't really know what is going to happen with climate change, especially to these kinds of low-floor food resources," he said.

Explore further: Blue tits: Bad news for kids – parents do not defend their offspring at all cost

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Humpback whales rebounding on Brazil's coast

Sep 02, 2012

(AP)—An institute that tracks the population of Humpback whales that reproduce along Brazil's coast says the number of the once-threatened mammals has tripled over the last 10 years.

Over 100 Beluga whales 'trapped in Bering Sea'

Dec 14, 2011

Over 100 Beluga whales are trapped in water between ice floes in the Chukotka region of Russia's Far East, the authorities said, calling on the government to send an ice-breaker to free them.

Mariners urged to look out for whales

Oct 01, 2007

The U.S. Coast Guard has warned mariners to take care to avoid hitting whales, after three whales were killed off the California coast.

Sound maps reveal whales and noise pollution

Feb 23, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Chris Clark discussed his state-of-the-art acoustic animations and the difficulties facing whales Feb. 21 at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in San Diego.

Recommended for you

Scanning robot helps put insect collection online

3 hours ago

A robot capable of scanning a tray of insect specimens in a few minutes will help make the virtual images and tagging information available to the public online, according to South Dakota State University ...

New mushroom discovered on campus is the first since 1985

3 hours ago

Two researchers who recently named the first new species of mushroom from the UC Berkeley campus in more than 30 years are emphasizing the need for continued green and open space on campus, as well as a full-fledged ...

Rare new species of plant: Stachys caroliniana

Nov 21, 2014

The exclusive club of explorers who have discovered a rare new species of life isn't restricted to globetrotters traveling to remote locations like the Amazon rainforests, Madagascar or the woodlands of the ...

Mysterious glowworm found in Peruvian rainforest

Nov 21, 2014

(Phys.org) —Wildlife photographer Jeff Cremer has discovered what appears to be a new type of bioluminescent larvae. He told members of the press recently that he was walking near a camp in the Peruvian ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.