(Credit: University of South Florida) Autonomous USF robot discovered red tide indicators west of Tampa during mapping exercise. (From Herald Tribune/ By Carlos R. Munoz) -- A new batch of red tide could be brewing west of Tampa. A University of South Florida underwater glider, an autonomous robot that collects subsurface data vital to understanding [...]
(Credit: Todd Chandler) Researchers from Oregon State University (OSU) have discovered that a population of blue whales found between the North and South islands of New Zealand are genetically distinct from other blue whales, and live there year-round. (From Forbes/ By Fiona McMillan) -- The first inklings that something unusual was going on began [...]
What It Was The House Natural Resources Committee held an oversight hearing titled, “Deficiencies in the permitting process for offshore seismic research.” Why It Matters The decisions we make on ocean use effect everyone. Our coastal waters can be used for shipping, fishing, tourism, research, energy production, security, among other things, and how we [...]
What It Was The House Natural Resources Committee held a markup of six environmental bills, including the Streamlining Environmental Approvals Act of 2017 (SEA Act; H.R. 3133), which amends the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 (MMPA, P.L. 92-522). All bills passed out of committee. Why It Matters The ocean has myriad uses, from [...]
(Credit: University of East Anglia) Scientists at the University of East Anglia have been recording the sounds made by whales and porpoises off the coast of northern Scotland – using a fleet of pioneering marine robots. (From Phys.org) -- From the metallic clicks of deep-diving sperm whales to the eerie whistles made by pods of [...]
A new article by a UNSW Sydney-led team challenges the validity of current methods for forecasting the persistence of slow-growing species for conservation purposes, and provides a better approach to reducing the threat of extinction. (From Science Daily) -- Previous research on wild dolphins in Australia and wild bears in North America has revealed that [...]
(Credit: Flip Nicklin/ Minden Pictures/Getty Images) Narwhals — the unicorns of the sea — show a weird fear response after being entangled in nets. Scientists say this unusual reaction to human-induced stress might restrict blood flow to the brain and leave the whales addled. (From NPR/ by Nell Greenfieldboyce) -- The narwhals swim hard and dive [...]
To graduate student Sarah Fortune, the rocky crags off Baffin Island were just part of its stark beauty. Then, she saw a group of eight bowhead whales rubbing their bodies against the large boulders. Using aerial drones to watch the whales, she saw that they were using the rocks to help remove loose, dead skin.
The Stellar's sea cow went extinct within 27 years of it being first spotted by humans. An enormous skeleton of a sea cow, an extinct beast that roamed the icy waters surrounding the North Pacific near the Bering Sea, was found almost entirely intact, buried in the sands of a beach in the Komandorsky Nature Reserve in Siberia, Russia.
The Strengthening the Economy with Critical Untapped Resources to Expand (SECURE) American Energy Act (H.R. 4239) was discussed in a hearing by the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources. The next day, it was marked up by the full committee, passing along a nearly party line vote (19-14).
Environmental disturbances such as El Niño shake up the marine food web off Southern California, new research shows, countering conventional thinking that the hierarchy of who-eats-who in the ocean remains largely constant over time.
HALIFAX, CANADA—In the fall of 1990, a few humpback whales showed up off the coast of western South Africa where they had rarely been seen before. Over the next couple years, a few more showed up, then a few more. Today, nearly 200 of the giant ocean mammals mill around a piece of ocean smaller than a U.S. football field for several months out of the year.
The University of Alaska has produced a procedure for what scientists on research vessels should do to avoid disrupting Indigenous communities’ traditional hunts. The university’s Brenda Konar hopes that other vessels will adopt codes of conduct. The Arctic Ocean is rapidly changing, and researchers are rushing to understand those changes. That means more research expeditions are coming into more frequent contact with Indigenous communities and the marine animals they depend on. To avoid those conflicts, a recent paper by researchers at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks lays out a “Community and Environmental Compliance Standard Operating Procedure,” or CECSOP.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has moved to remove Endangered Species Act protections from Pacific Walruses, citing their ability to adapt and persist during changes in their climate and environment. "The Pacific walrus population has persisted through past climate change events however, the ability of the Pacific walrus population to adapt to ...
A fossil skull might indicate the location of a prehistoric whale breeding ground. Found in Hiroshima, Japan, the roughly 16 million year old fossil is of an extinct baleen whale Parietobalaena yamaokai. It’s not the only one of its kind. Multiple specimens of the Miocene mysticete have been found in this place. But what makes this cranium stand out, paleontologist Cheng-Hsiu Tsai notes, is an open suture at the back of the skull. Skulls can be a rough way to tell a mammal's age. In younger mammals, the skull bones haven’t fused together yet. There may be gaps between them, bridged by cartilage, or the sutures running between each piece are easily visible.
A new international study has measured the effect of loud sounds on migrating humpback whales as concern grows as oceans become noisier. Scientists have said one of the main sources of ocean noise was oil and gas exploration, due to geologists firing off loud acoustic air guns to probe the structure of the ocean floor in search of fossil fuels.
It’s not just humans who will be affected by the Great American Eclipse coming on Aug. 21 — expect animals to act strangely too. Anecdotal evidence and a few scientific studies suggest that as the moon moves briefly between the sun and the Earth, causing a deep twilight to fall across the land, large swaths of the animal kingdom will alter their behavior.
The seventh season of Game of Thrones may have just premiered, but for catfish of the Gulf of Mexico, every day brings with it the grim possibility of ending up like Ned Stark: unexpectedly beheaded. In a first, marine biologists have discovered that some of the Gulf’s common bottlenose dolphins have a knack for decapitating native marine catfish. Though dolphins usually eat their prey whole, they sometimes get fancy in their meal preparation. Rough-toothed dolphins in the eastern Pacific “filet” mahi-mahi. Dolphins employ division of labor to corral and eat mullet. One 2009 study shows that Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins follow “recipes” for preparing cuttlefish meals.
What do blue whales, loggerhead sea turtles, southern bluefin tuna, dugongs, manatees, sea otters, hammerhead sharks, and Elkhorn corals have in common? They’re all listed as endangered – and therefore federally protected – under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). With alarming numbers of North Atlantic right whale deaths and fishing entanglements this summer, this 1973 law is at the forefront of marine scientists’ minds. In a House Natural Resources hearing on Wednesday, the full committee gathered to discuss five Republican-authored bills to reform the landmark act. The majority press release identifies the goals of the bills as increasing responsibilities of states, improving data transparency, altering listing and delisting processes, and discouraging costly lawsuits.
At a House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing, as lawmakers explored the potential for offshore drilling in Alaska and the Atlantic, seismic testing was once again a controversial topic. Seismic tests are used to determine the presence and abundance of oil; registering at 120 decibels, Representative Jared Huffman (CA-2) said the blasts have “an enormous and obvious impact" on marine mammals. Witness Nikki Martin (President, International Association of Geophysical Contractors) disagreed, claiming that there is no scientific evidence showing harm to marine mammals (despite studies showing otherwise).
Humpback whales are skilled acrobats, emotive singers and the most ambitious migrators of all mammals. They are also incredibly creative foragers, capable of trying new approaches to catching a meal. Now, a study has found that these titans of innovation have learned to feed on salmon released from man-made hatcheries in southeast Alaska. “This is a new source of prey, as far as we can tell,” said Ellen Chenoweth, a doctoral candidate at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and lead author of the study, published on Tuesday in the journal Royal Society Open Science.
Scientists at University of Malaya, Malaysia, have found that the seagrass meadows in Johor harbor three times more juvenile fish than coral reefs. They also found that the dugong herds there prefer certain types of meadows over others. Seagrass, the world's oldest living thing, is a marine flowering plant that forms vast underwater meadows throughout all the oceans of the world, except in the Antarctic. These flowering plants first appeared in fossil records 100 million years ago and are the key to the survival of our seas, by providing oxygen, filtering out pollutants and bacteria, and capturing large stores of carbon that would otherwise contribute to climate warming.
A newly born two-headed porpoise has been documented by a group of Dutch fishermen and studied by a team of researchers from several institutions in the Netherlands. In their paper published in Deinsea—Online Journal of the Natural History Museum Rotterdam, the researchers report how the fishermen caught the porpoise, photographed it and then threw it back into the ocean. Reports of conjoined twins in cetaceans (a family that includes whales, porpoises and dolphins) are rare, quite naturally because they occur in the open sea—it is also likely that most would die shortly after birth, like the specimen found by the fishermen. In this case, it appears the porpoise was born without the ability to swim.
For humans, there are hundreds of antibodies available on the market to evaluate immune status in health and diseases. However, for the more than 42 known species of dolphins around the world, commercially available marine-specific antibodies do not exist. With the drastic increase in the number of unusual dolphin strandings and deaths along the southeastern coast of the United States and elsewhere, finding specific antibodies to test, monitor and document their immune health is critical.
Polar bears are ditching seafood in favour of scrambled eggs, as the heat rises in the Arctic melting the sea ice. A changing coastline has made it harder for the predators to catch the seals they favour and is pushing them towards poaching goose eggs.
A new study by scientists at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science's Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, Cornell University and Duke University is the first in a series to understand how marine mammals like porpoises, whales, and dolphins may be impacted by the construction of wind farms off the coast of Maryland.
Baby humpback whales seem to whisper to their mothers, according to scientists who have captured the infant whales' quiet grunts and squeaks. The recordings, described in the journal Functional Ecology, are the first ever made with devices attached directly to the calves.
Whales from both poles migrate long distances to breed in tropical waters. Smithsonian scientist Hector M. Guzman and Fernando Félix at the Salinas Whale Museum in Ecuador, tagged 47 humpbacks with satellite transmitters to understand how the humpbacks' Southeastern Pacific population moves within breeding areas.
Tool use by sea otters to break open well-armored food is not necessarily a family matter, according to a new study published this week by the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) and partners. Unlike previous research that has found that a group of tool-using Indio-Pacific bottlenose dolphins share a common genetic lineage, this study found that tool use in sea otters is ubiquitous and actually has little to do with genetic ties.
Only three known species go through menopause: killer whales, short-finned pilot whales, and humans. Two years ago, scientists suggested whales do this to focus their attention on the survival of their families rather than on birthing more offspring. But now this same team reports there’s another—and darker—reason: Older females enter menopause because their eldest daughters begin having calves, leading to fights over resources. The findings might also apply to humans, the scientists say.
How humpback whales use marine habitats off the eastern coast of Africa is only partially understood, and that has become a conservation concern as offshore energy exploration expands in the region. However, a new study published in Marine Ecology Progress Series found that humpback whales that were satellite tagged off the coast of Madagascar during peak breeding season are traveling much further in the southwest Indian Ocean than previously thought. This research can help define potentially sensitive areas that should be protected from the disruption of seismic testing or other industrial development that could be destructive to the humpback population and this globally important marine habitat.
Some beluga whales are adapting to climate change by changing their migratory habits, while other are not, a new study finds. Beluga whales spend the summer in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas, and winters in the warmer Bering Sea to the south. Some beluga whales are delaying their autumn southern migration by up to four weeks, according to a paper published in the journal Global Change Biology.
Pollution in the Arctic is so bad that chemicals are accumulating in polar bear mother's milk and getting passed onto bear cubs. A new analysis of pollutants in the Arctic has found that polar bears are at a particularly high risk, compared to other animals like seals. The study was published in the journal Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry in December and focused on a class of pollutants known as persistent organic pollutants (POPs). POPs are toxic, hang around for a long time, and tend to build up in the bodies of humans and animals.
The vaquita is a small porpoise found only in the northern Gulf of California, in Mexico. Today, the species is critically endangered, with less than 60 animals left in the wild, thanks to fishing nets to catch fish and shrimp for sale in Mexico and America. The animal is an accidental victim of the fishing industry, as are many other marine mammals.
A federal plan for the recovery of an endangered Alaska beluga whale calls for a reduction in threats of high concern while scientists try to pinpoint what has kept the population from growing. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Wednesday announced its recovery plan for Cook Inlet beluga whales, a population listed as endangered since 2008.
U.S. Navy-trained dolphins and their handlers will participate in a last-ditch effort to catch, enclose and protect the last few dozen of Mexico's critically endangered vaquita porpoises to save them from extinction. International experts confirmed the participation of the Navy Marine Mammal Program in the effort, which is expected to start sometime this spring.
A sophisticated new type of "tag" on whales that can record data every second for hours, days and weeks at a time provides a view of whale behavior, biology and travels never before possible, scientists from Oregon State University reported in a new study. This "Advanced Dive Behavior," or ADB tag, has allowed researchers to expand their knowledge of whale ecology to areas deep beneath the sea, over thousands of miles of travel, and outline their interaction with the prey they depend upon for food.
Coral in an area in the Atlantic Ocean stretching from Connecticut to Virginia has been protected from deep-sea commercial fishing gear, by a new rule issued this week by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The protected area covers some 38,000 square miles of federal waters, NOAA says, which is about the size of Virginia. It's the "largest area in the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico protected from a range of destructive fishing gear," according to the NRDC, an environmental advocacy group.
New restrictions on U.S. seafood imports, which will require seafood to be harvested in accordance with the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), will likely offer significant marine conservation benefits on a global scale. In this Policy Forum, Rob Williams et al. highlight the impacts and challenges involved in this endeavor. The U.S. is the largest importer of seafood in the world, accepting marine catches from more than 120 countries. Best case scenario, countries will comply and marine species will benefit from improved protection. Worst case, countries could suffer economically from not being able to export to the US, and/or choose not to comply.
An otherworldly noise that was recorded near the Mariana Trench could be a never-before-heard whale call. Dubbed the "Western Pacific Biotwang," this newly discovered call might be from a minke whale — a type of baleen whale — according to the researchers who documented the vocalization. Regardless of what species it is, this whale has range: The call includes sounds that span frequencies that reach as low as 38 hertz and as high as 8,000 hertz. Humans can hear sounds between 20 and 20,000 Hz.
Marine scientists have discovered that two species of dolphin in the waters off Bangladesh are genetically distinct from those in other regions of the Indian and western Pacific Oceans, a finding that supports a growing body of evidence that the Bay of Bengal harbors conditions that drive the evolution of new life forms, according to a new study by the American Museum of Natural History(AMNH), WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society), and the cE3c -- Centre for Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Changes (Universidade de Lisboa).
President Barack Obama responded to appeals from Alaska Native villages and gave them more of a say in the federal management of marine resources of the Bering Sea. Obama signed an executive order Friday to create a Northern Bering Sea Climate Resilience Area that will focus "locally tailored" protections on marine resources. The newly created resilience area covers 112,300 square miles and stretches from north of the Bering Strait to north of Bristol Bay. The order requires more focused federal consultation with Alaska tribes and 39 communities that line the west coast of Alaska, along with state officials. The area supports what may be the world's largest annual marine mammal migration of bowhead and beluga whales, Pacific walrus, ice seals and migratory birds.
Emblematic of the effects of climate change, polar bears have once again been shown to be highly vulnerable due to shrinking sea ice levels throughout the range of their habitat. A study published Wednesday by an international team of researchers found a 71 percent chance that over 30 percent of Earth’s polar bear population could be gone in 35-41 years.
Scientists have long used satellite tags to track blue whales along the West Coast, learning how the largest animals on the planet find enough small krill to feed on to support their enormous size. Now researchers from NOAA Fisheries, Oregon State University and the University of Maryland have combined that trove of tracking data with satellite observations of ocean conditions to develop the first system for predicting locations of blue whales off the West Coast. The system, called WhaleWatch, produces monthly maps of blue whale "hotspots" to alert ships where there may be an increased risk of encountering these endangered whales.
Today, the National Ocean Council (NOC) finalized the Nation’s first ocean plans, taking a historic step toward fulfilling President Obama’s commitment to healthy ocean ecosystems and a strong, sustainable marine economy. The two regional plans, the Northeast Ocean Plan and the Mid-Atlantic Ocean Action Plan, promote the use of integrated ocean data and best practices for informed and efficient management of the Nation’s shared marine resources. This approach is designed to work across all levels of government and to advance economic, environmental, and cultural priorities within each region. In addition to years of historic collaboration among states, tribes, Federal agencies, and Fishery Management Councils, the Plans are a result of extensive participation and input from marine stakeholders representing fishing, recreation, energy, transportation, telecommunications, and many other interests.
It’s something all whale-watchers yearn to see. The sight of whales breaking the surface and slapping their fins on the water is a true spectacle – but the animals don’t do it just for show. Instead, it appears that all that splashing is about messaging other whales, and the big splashes are for long-distance calls. Ailbhe Kavanagh at the University of Queensland in Gatton, Australia, and her colleagues studied 94 different groups of humpback whales migrating south along the Queensland coast in 2010 and 2011.
Pods of playful Hawaiian spinner dolphins are popular with tourists along the western shore of Hawaii’s Big Island. But noise from sightseeing boats and other coastal users wakes these vulnerable animals from their essential daytime slumber, a new study shows. A pending federal rule would protect the species, but advocates on both sides are unhappy with it.
Two captive harbour porpoises called Freja and Sif have helped to reveal that porpoises —and probably all cetaceans — consciously adjust their heart rate to suit the length of a planned dive.
The narwhal is not an aquatic unicorn. It’s not magical, or mythical. It’s just a whale with two teeth, one of which happens to be really long on males. But it’s not just its snaggletooth — which can be up to nine feet long — that makes this Arctic sea creature unbelievable. The narwhal sees with sound — and it’s exceptionally good at it too, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal PLOS One.
Research into the winter foraging and diving behaviour of Antarctic fur seals has revealed, for the first time, two contrasting strategies the predators use to survive in one of the world’s most inhospitable environments.