Marine Mammal Institute

Newport, OR, United States

Marine Mammal Institute

Newport, OR, United States

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News Article | May 21, 2017
Site: news.yahoo.com

Humpbacks range in length from 39 to 52 feet and weigh between 50,000 to 80,000. These whales can live for almost 50 years. Rescue crews and biologists were seen using underwater microphones, known as hydrophones to guide get a large humpback whale back to the ocean after it got stuck in the Ventura Harbor Marina in California on Saturday afternoon. The rare spectacle of an almost 40-foot-long whale swimming in circles between docks at the Ventura Harbor Marina attracted a large audience and television cameras, the Los Angeles Times reported. Read: Most Polluted Animal On Earth: Dead Killer Whale Washes Up In Scotland The whale was said to have been trapped in the finger of the M dock between Ventura Isle Marina and Ventura West Marina. According to the authorities, the whale appeared to be angered as it swirled sand and dirt and muddied the water at the end of the dock. The humpback whale also hit the dock a few times and crashed into the rear end of a boat, almost hitting a propeller. Ventura Harbor Patrol Officer Tim Burrows confirmed the mammal was not injured. Large crowds of people gathered in the parking lot area above to watch the large mammal swim around the docks. According to a wildlife expert at the Channel Island Marine and Wildlife Institute, Jen Levine noted it to be a healthy juvenile, Associated Press reported. Local authorities, the Coast Guard, and the National Parks Service were also involved to help rescue the mammal. Humpbacks range in length from 39 to 52 feet and weigh between 50,000 to 80,000. These whales can live for almost 50 years. The humpbacks are well known for breaching and other distinctive surface behaviors, making them quite popular with their spectators and whale watchers. “It’s really beautiful when they are swimming under the sea ice,” scientist Ari Friedlaender, an ecologist with Oregon State University's Marine Mammal Institute, told National Geographic. “They’re so fluid and moving around in three dimensions and just cruising. But to be honest, we don’t know what everything we’re watching means yet.” Their diet mostly consist of krill and small fish, and they typically migrate up to 16,000 miles each year. Humpbacks are known for their magical songs that travel large distances across the world’s oceans. Males are said to produce a specific song, which lasts from 10 to 20 minutes and they repeat it for hours at a time. Researchers say this song might have a role in mating. Like other large whales, the humpbacks have also been a target for the whaling industry. They were once hunted to the extent of being on the brink of extinction. Its population fell by an estimated 90 percent before a 1966 moratorium. While the number has partially recovered after that, collisions with ships, noise pollution and entanglement in fishing gear still continue to affect the population of 80,000 humpback whales. Earlier in May, researchers attached cameras to the large mammals’ backs in Antarctica in order to follow their movements. The cameras were attached with suction cups that didn’t hurt the whales and remained there for a day or two, National Geographic said. They tracked the creatures and captured “a whale's-eye view of a changing undersea universe, helping reshape our knowledge of whale life in the Southern Ocean.” And these cameras did that without the sometimes harmful intervention of humans into their underwater world.


News Article | May 24, 2017
Site: www.latimes.com

You have the privilege of sharing the planet with the largest animal that ever lived on Earth. The great blue whale, which can be found in every ocean around the globe, is bigger than any dinosaur you’ve seen in a museum. It can weigh as much as 24 elephants and grow longer than two school buses. Its jawbone is as big as a telephone pole, its heart is the size of an oil drum and it can consume up to two tons of food in a single day. “There’s no way to describe how insignificant you feel when you are around an animal this big,” said Ari Friedlaender, an ecologist at Oregon State University’s Marine Mammal Institute. But exactly when whales became the largest animals on the planet — and why — has been a mystery. Until now. In a paper published this week in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, a team of scientists suggests that smaller baleen whales that swam the ancient seas were uniquely positioned to take advantage of a change in the distribution of food in the ocean that occurred roughly 3 million years ago — but only if they grew bigger. “What the paper shows is that whales didn’t get bigger and bigger as soon as they entered the ocean or when they evolved filter feeding,” said Friedlaender, who was not involved with the new research. “Instead, there was a time when resources increased very quickly, and that was concurrent with when they got big.” Baleen whales — which include great blue whales, fin whales and right whales, among others — are amazingly efficient eaters. Their favorite feast is krill, a shrimp-like animal about the size of a bumblebee that can assemble in a dense swarm hundreds of feet thick and more than a mile in length. Hungry whales accelerate into this swarm with their enormous mouths open, eventually filtering out the water and swallowing the krill. Using this technique, the biggest whales can ingest half a million calories in a single bite. “People like to say, ‘Oh, the biggest animals in the ocean eat the smallest animals,’ but if you ever see a blue whale eat, it’s almost like it’s taking a bite out of a superorganism,” said Nick Pyenson, curator of fossil marine mammals at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. And yet, that hasn’t always been the case. Pyenson’s own work measuring more than 140 fossil specimens of whales, some of which date as far back as 30 million years, showed that for most of their evolutionary history, baleen whales were much smaller than they are today — closer in size to a minivan. It isn’t until somewhere between 3.5 million and a few hundred thousand years ago that distantly related baleen whales all started to grow to jumbo size, and smaller whales started to die out. So, what effected this change? The researchers considered several possibilities that have been used to explain gigantism in other animals. For example, Cope’s rule posits that species have a tendency to get bigger over time. But this didn’t explain the data. Thanks to Pyenson’s research, the scientists knew that whales stayed relatively small for most of their history and then suddenly got large all at once. Another hypothesis known as the Brownian motion model of evolution posits that animals get big and small at random. In this scenario, the descendants of an animal would be both larger and smaller than their ancestor, but this didn’t fit with the data either, since whales got only bigger. Pyenson’s coauthor Graham Slater, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Chicago who did the evolutionary modeling, thought perhaps whale size was influenced by drops in ocean temperature. Previous researchers have noted that it is advantageous for animals to grow large in cool climates because they have less surface area relative to volume and therefore lose less heat. But that wasn’t the case. “I really thought we might find some signature effect of temperature because it just made sense,” Slater said. “But in the end, it is more exciting that temperature didn’t play a role because it meant that we had to find something new to explain what was going on.” After looking at fossil data in ocean sediments, the scientists ultimately concluded that whales expanded in size as a response to a change in the way their food supply was distributed in the ocean. As Slater explains, from the time of the dinosaurs to about 3 million years ago, nutrients were evenly distributed across the ocean. But then there was a transition, in which dense aggregations of nutrients could be found along certain coastlines, while vast parts of the open ocean became virtual marine deserts. This change occurred because of the slow cooling of Earth that began after the dinosaurs became extinct. Eventually this cooling led to ice at the northern pole, which melts in summer and sends nutrients from the land into the sea. At the same time, wind patterns changed so that breezes blowing off the coasts pushed warm, surface water toward the center of the ocean and allowed an upwelling of cooler, nutrient-rich water. This promoted the primary production of plant life, which in turn fed the krill and allowed them to assemble in enormous swarms. In this environment, it is better to be a large baleen whale than a small baleen whale for a couple of reasons. Bigger whales can take larger bites of dense krill patches. In addition, their large size allows them to keep more fat in storage to sustain them as they travel to the next krill assemblage. “It’s pretty clear that the shift in ocean dynamics is at 3 million years ago, and what we estimate for the shift in body size is definitely no older than 4.5 million years ago and could be as recent as a few hundred thousand years ago,” Slater said. He added that he eventually would like to see that range shortened, but he can’t do that without more whale fossils from that time period. “It’s one of those papers that when you read it, you say, ‘Why didn’t I think of that?’ ” said Dan Costa, an ecologist at UC Santa Cruz, who was not involved in the work. “More importantly they put it all together, collecting data on body-length changes in the fossil record and compared that with an index of upwelling from the fossil record. Not easy stuff to do.”


News Article | May 1, 2017
Site: news.yahoo.com

What would it be like to hop on a humpback whale for a piggyback ride? Researchers got the next best thing when they attached cameras to the ocean mammals’ backs in Antarctica. The cameras stick on with suction cups that don’t hurt the whales and stay for a day or two, National Geographic says. They track the creatures and capture “a whale's-eye view of a changing undersea universe, helping reshape our knowledge of whale life in the Southern Ocean.” And they do that without inserting humans into their underwater world. The Southern Ocean is the water that covers the bottom of the world, the extreme south of Earth’s oceans. This whale research is taking place on the western side of the Antarctic Peninsula — the tentacle of the continent’s land that points toward the tip of South America. Video footage (below) has taught the experts more about whales, including that they “feed in water far deeper than expected, and they may use their blow holes to create openings in the ice to breathe.” The cameras also offer views of social interactions, like play. Humpback whales are enormous, up to 60 feet long and between 50,000 and 80,000 pounds, so there’s a lot of feeding footage to be had. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says the gray and white mammals can eat up to 3,000 pounds of crustaceans, plankton and small fish every day. The whales can live about 50 years. “It’s really beautiful when they are swimming under the sea ice,” scientist Ari Friedlaender, an ecologist with Oregon State University's Marine Mammal Institute, told National Geographic. “They’re so fluid and moving around in three dimensions and just cruising. But to be honest, we don’t know what everything we’re watching means yet.” Humpback whales have been in the news lately for a more tragic reason: They have been washing up dead on the East Coast of the United States and experts are not sure why. More than two dozen mysteriously died last year and there have been 15 additional dead humpback whale cases since the beginning of this year, according to Popular Science. NOAA is investigating, using autopsies to find out what is going wrong. “So far, 10 of the 20 dead whales that have been necropsied clearly showed signs of being hit by boat propellers. That stands out because normally, NOAA only gets an average of 1.4 reports of boats hitting whales per year.” In other cases of unusual marine animal deaths, toxic algae and infections have also been the culprit, though it is still unclear if those factored into the recent whale deaths. The Aliens Are Probably Marine Creatures, Not Land Animals


News Article | April 19, 2017
Site: phys.org

There is a reason for their discretion, researchers say. The whales are so massive – sometimes growing to the length of three school buses – that they must carefully balance the energy gained through their food intake with the energetic costs of feeding. "Modeling studies of blue whales 'lunge-feeding' theorize that they will not put energy into feeding on low-reward prey patches," said Leigh Torres, a principal investigator with the Marine Mammal Institute at Oregon State, who led the expedition studying the blue whales. "Our footage shows this theory in action. We can see the whale making choices, which is really extraordinary because aerial observations of blue whales feeding on krill are rare." "The whale bypasses certain krill patches – presumably because the nutritional payoff isn't sufficient – and targets other krill patches that are more lucrative. We think this is because blue whales are so big, and stopping to lunge-feed and then speeding up again is so energy-intensive, that they try to maximize their effort." The video, captured in the Southern Ocean off New Zealand, shows a blue whale cruising toward a large mass of krill – roughly the size of the whale itself. The animal then turns on its side, orients toward the beginning of the krill swarm, and proceeds along its axis through the entire patch, devouring nearly the entire krill mass. In another vignette, the same whale approaches a smaller mass of krill, which lies more perpendicular to its approach, and blasts through it without feeding. "We had theorized that blue whales make choices like this and the video makes it clear that they do use such a strategy," explained Torres, who works out of Oregon State's Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, Oregon. "It certainly appears that the whale determined that amount of krill to be gained, and the effort it would take to consume the meal wasn't worth the effort of slowing down. "It would be like me driving a car and braking every 100 yards, then accelerating again. Whales need to be choosy about when to apply the brakes to feed on a patch of krill." The researchers analyzed the whale's lunge-feeding and found that it approached the krill patch at about 6.7 miles per hour. The act of opening its enormous mouth to feed slowed the whale down to 1.1 mph – and getting that big body back up to cruising speed again requires a lot of energy. The rare footage was possible through the use of small drones. The OSU team is trained to fly them over whales and was able to view blue whales from a unique perspective. "It's hard to get good footage from a ship," Torres said, "and planes or helicopters can be invasive because of their noise. The drone allows us to get new angles on the whales without bothering them."


News Article | April 21, 2017
Site: www.techtimes.com

Blue whales are currently the largest animals alive on Earth both on and off the endangered species list so it is only natural that humans are interested in its feeding habits. Tech Times reported from previous studies that blue whales apply efficient feeding strategies when it comes to foraging for krill — its main diet — but it is only now that we finally get to see the massive animal in action. Leigh Torres, a marine spatial ecologist from Oregon State University's Marine Mammal Institute, used a drone equipped with a camera to study the feeding patterns of blue whales off the coast of New Zealand in an effort to help manage its population. What she captured not only proves the theory that the massive animal employs strategic foraging but also shows how efficient the strategy is. "Modeling studies of blue whales 'lunge-feeding' theorize that they will not put energy into feeding on low-reward prey patches ... Our footage shows this theory in action," Torres said. The theory is that, because of the blue whale's sheer size, it has to conserve energy and make smart choices when feeding, and the Marine Mammal Institute's footage shows just that. One would see in the two-and-a-half-minute video that the blue whale recognized two krill patches but only exerted effort on one of them — the more massive one. Torres explains that previous observations usually limited scientists to the boat where they can see the blue whale turning on its side to feed but the actual event is not seen. Now with the help of a camera drone, the researchers were able to record an aerial footage of the feeding. Around the 30-second mark, the footage shows the blue whale approaching a krill patch and turn on its side before slowing down to consume it. The video actually shows the whale swimming at about 6.7 mph on its approach to the krill patch then slowing down to 1.1 mph during the actual consumption. Just a little over the one-minute mark, the blue whale recognizes another krill patch and turns on its side to prepare to lunge at it. However, the whale seems to have deduced that the krill patch is too small to satisfy its appetite so it bypasses it instead. "The whale bypasses certain krill patches ... and targets other krill patches that are more lucrative. We think this is because blue whales are so big, and stopping to lunge-feed and then speeding up again is so energy-intensive, that they try to maximize their effort," Torres explains. © 2017 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.


News Article | April 19, 2017
Site: news.yahoo.com

One small flight for drones has the potential to be one giant step for science ... just ask researchers at Oregon State University. A group of scientists at the university recently captured rare footage of blue whales feeding in the Southern Ocean off New Zealand via drone. The stunning footage, narrated by Leigh G. Torres, expedition leader and principal investigator with the Marine Mammal Institute at Oregon State, provides a great deal of insight into what whales eat and how they decide what food is worthy of their time. SEE ALSO: Serene underwater footage shows whale's-eye view of Antarctica In a press release, Torres explained the footage clearly shows the blue whales' "lunge-feeding" process of suddenly lunging forward to eat a massive pack of krill. "Our footage shows this [lunge-feeding theory] in action," said Torres. "We can see the whale making choices, which is really extraordinary because aerial observations of blue whales feeding on krill are rare. The whale bypasses certain krill patches — presumably because the nutritional payoff isn’t sufficient — and targets other krill patches that are more lucrative." "We think this is because blue whales are so big, and stopping to lunge-feed and then speeding up again is so energy-intensive, that they try to maximize their effort," Torres continued. As for the unique perspective, the investigator gave a big thumbs up to drone usage, explaining they're a "great way to film [the whales'] behavior without disturbing their behavior at all, unlike other aerial methods like a helicopter or a plane, which can’t hover or make a lot of noise."


News Article | November 29, 2016
Site: www.eurekalert.org

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. NOAA Fisheries has begun publicly posting the maps on its West Coast Region website each month. A new scientific paper published today in the Journal of Applied Ecology describes the development of the WhaleWatch system and the methodology behind it. "We're using the many years of tag data to let the whales tell us where they go, and under what conditions," said Elliott Hazen, a research ecologist at NOAA Fisheries Southwest Fisheries Science Center and lead author of the new paper. "If we know what drives their hotspots we can more clearly assess different management options to reduce risk to the whales." Helen Bailey, the WhaleWatch project leader at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science and coauthor of the paper, described WhaleWatch as an innovative combination of satellite technology and computer modeling that will help protect whales by providing timely information to the shipping industry. NASA helped fund the project, which draws on ocean observations from NASA and NOAA satellites. "This is the first time that we've been able to predict whale densities on a year-round basis in near-real time," said Bailey, who specializes in studying the movements of marine mammals and hopes the same approach will be used for other species of whales. "We hope it's going to protect the whales by helping inform the shipping industry." Blue whales are listed as an endangered species, although their population has increased in recent years. Earlier research has found that shipping lanes to and from Los Angeles and San Francisco overlap with important blue whale foraging hotspots, putting whales at risk of fatal ship strikes. Studies have found that ships off the West Coast strike an average of about two blue whales a year, although some ship strikes probably go unnoticed. "No ship captain or shipping company wants to strike a whale," said Kip Louttit, executive director of the Marine Exchange of Southern California, which tracks ship traffic into and out of Southern California ports. "If we can provide good scientific information about the areas that should be avoided, areas the whales are using, I think the industry is going to take that very seriously and put it to use." NOAA Fisheries has developed a California Current Integrated Ecosystem Assessment to examine how environmental conditions affect marine resources including whales and other marine mammals. Hazen said WhaleWatch could help evaluate different management strategies to tell whether they are effective in reducing risk to whales. "This is where science meets management," he said. "Now we have the tools for scientists to predict outcomes of different decisions or choices." As the scientists note in the new paper, the WhaleWatch model "provides a critical step towards developing seasonal and dynamic management approaches to help reduce the risk of ship strikes for blue whales in the California Current." Maps produced by the model may also prove useful to fishermen who want to reduce the risk of whales becoming entangled in lines attached to crab traps or other gear. The strength of WhaleWatch is more than a decade of tracking data collected by Bruce Mate of Oregon State University and his team for more than 100 blue whales from 1994 to 2008. Hazen used computer models to look for relationships between the movements of the whales and environmental factors such as ocean temperature, chlorophyll concentrations and other factors. "Nobody has ever had a database like this for any whale anywhere in the world," Mate said. "These aren't guesstimates of how whales may respond to certain conditions, but actual data on how they did respond, which improves the accuracy of the predictions." Funding for the research was provided by NASA, U.S. Geological Survey, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Smithsonian Institution Climate and Response Program and by NOAA's Integrated Ecosystem Assessment Program. The tagging of whales was funded through Oregon State University's Marine Mammal Institute.


News Article | March 5, 2016
Site: www.techtimes.com

An albino whale named “Gallon of Milk” made a rare appearance during a yearly whale census off Mexico’s Pacific coast. It was a welcome sight for conservation officials in the country as the extremely rare albino female gray whale had last been spotted in 2009. The National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (CONANP) posted a Facebook video showing the whale swimming in waters located near Baja California Sur in Mexico with a small calf in tow. The offspring did not appear to inherit her albino appearance. “Gallon of Milk” was first documented during the 2008-2009 season and belonged to an annual count of gray whales migrating to the area. According to CONANP, 2,211 gray whales showed up this year in the Ojo de Liebre lagoon of the El Vizcaíno Biosphere Reserve, the biological landscape of which researchers have been monitoring for 20 years now. Of those specimens, 1,004 are calves born in Mexico. The bright white whale’s condition albinism makes her of a special kind, since the gene mutation that leads to a sharp decrease in the pigment melanin – or the lack of it – is barely recorded among marine mammals. This condition has been better documented among land mammals, reptiles and birds, both in captivity and in the wild. The annual monitoring helps ensure the continuing survival of the gray whale species (Eschrichtius robustus), a highly endangered breed migrating every year between feeding and breeding sites. These majestic creatures can live up to 70 years, and grow to weigh 40 tons and reach 50 feet in length. Young whales grow to learn their parents’ migration patterns. “Usually calves follow their mothers from breeding areas to foraging grounds,” said Bruce Mate, director of Oregon State University’s Marine Mammal Institute. Gray whale populations were also decimated by commercial whaling. At present, their groups thrive in waters on the Pacific Ocean’s eastern and western sides, believed to be separated from each other. Those in the western Pacific – previously thought to be totally wiped out – are estimated to possibly be critically endangered at a 130-population count.


News Article | December 23, 2016
Site: www.chromatographytechniques.com

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. It has even turned whales into scientific colleagues to help understand ocean conditions and climate change. The findings, just published in the journal Ecology and Evolution, showed sperm whales diving all the way to the sea floor, more than 1,000 meters deep, and being submerged for up to 75 minutes. It reported baleen whales lunging after their food; provided a basis to better understand whale reactions to undersea noises such as sonar or seismic exploration; and is helping scientists observe how whales react to changes in water temperature. "The ADB tag is a pretty revolutionary breakthrough," said Bruce Mate, professor and director of OSU's Marine Mammal Institute in the College of Agricultural Sciences. "This provides us a broad picture of whale behavior and ecology that we've never had before. "This technology has even made whales our partners in acquiring data to better understand ocean conditions and climate change," Mate said. "It gives us vast amounts of new data about water temperatures through space and time, over large distances and in remote locations. We're learning more about whales, and the whales are helping us to learn more about our own planet." The new tag, the researchers say, expands by several orders of magnitude the observations that can be made of whale feeding and behavior. Researchers say it's showing what whales do while underwater; when, how and where they feed; how they might be affected by passing ships or other noises; and what types of water temperatures they prefer. In the new study, researchers outlined the continued evolution and improvements made in the ADB technology from 2007-15, in which it was used on sperm, blue and fin whales. The research has been supported by the Office of Naval Research, the U.S. Navy and the International Association of Oil and Gas Producers. "By using this technology on three different species, we've seen the full range of behavior that is specific to each species," said Daniel Palacios, a co-author on the study. "Sperm whales, for instance, really like to dive deep, staying down a long time and appearing to forage along the seafloor at times. During summer the baleen whales will feed as much as possible in one area, and then they move on, probably after the prey density gets too low." Unlike earlier technology that could not return data from the deep sea for much longer than a day, the new ADB tags are designed to acquire data constantly, for up to seven weeks at a time, before they detach from the whale, float to the surface and are retrieved in the open sea to download data. The retrieval itself is a little tricky – scientists compare it to searching for a hamburger floating in thousands of square miles of open ocean – but it has worked pretty well, thanks to the tags transmitting GPS-quality locations and flashing LED lights once they have released. The tag can sense water depth, whale movement and body orientation, water temperature and light levels. "With this system we can acquire much more data at a lower cost, with far less commitment of time by ships and personnel," said Ladd Irvine, the corresponding author on the study. "This tag type yields amazing results. It's going to significantly expand what we can accomplish, learning both about whale ecology and the ocean itself."


News Article | December 23, 2016
Site: phys.org

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. It has even turned whales into scientific colleagues to help understand ocean conditions and climate change. The findings, just published in the journal Ecology and Evolution, showed sperm whales diving all the way to the sea floor, more than 1000 meters deep, and being submerged for up to 75 minutes. It reported baleen whales lunging after their food; provided a basis to better understand whale reactions to undersea noises such as sonar or seismic exploration; and is helping scientists observe how whales react to changes in water temperature. "The ADB tag is a pretty revolutionary breakthrough," said Bruce Mate, professor and director of OSU's Marine Mammal Institute in the College of Agricultural Sciences. "This provides us a broad picture of whale behavior and ecology that we've never had before. "This technology has even made whales our partners in acquiring data to better understand ocean conditions and climate change," Mate said. "It gives us vast amounts of new data about water temperatures through space and time, over large distances and in remote locations. We're learning more about whales, and the whales are helping us to learn more about our own planet." The new tag, the researchers say, expands by several orders of magnitude the observations that can be made of whale feeding and behavior. Researchers say it's showing what whales do while underwater; when, how and where they feed; how they might be affected by passing ships or other noises; and what types of water temperatures they prefer. In the new study, researchers outlined the continued evolution and improvements made in the ADB technology from 2007-15, in which it was used on sperm, blue and fin whales. The research has been supported by the Office of Naval Research, the U.S. Navy and the International Association of Oil and Gas Producers. "By using this technology on three different species, we've seen the full range of behavior that is specific to each species," said Daniel Palacios, a co-author on the study. "Sperm whales, for instance, really like to dive deep, staying down a long time and appearing to forage along the seafloor at times. During summer the baleen whales will feed as much as possible in one area, and then they move on, probably after the prey density gets too low." Unlike earlier technology that could not return data from the deep sea for much longer than a day, the new ADB tags are designed to acquire data constantly, for up to seven weeks at a time, before they detach from the whale, float to the surface and are retrieved in the open sea to download data. The retrieval itself is a little tricky – scientists compare it to searching for a hamburger floating in thousands of square miles of open ocean – but it has worked pretty well, thanks to the tags transmitting GPS-quality locations and flashing LED lights once they have released. The tag can sense water depth, whale movement and body orientation, water temperature and light levels. "With this system we can acquire much more data at a lower cost, with far less commitment of time by ships and personnel," said Ladd Irvine, the corresponding author on the study. "This tag type yields amazing results. It's going to significantly expand what we can accomplish, learning both about whale ecology and the ocean itself." Explore further: Current whale migration models are too simplified More information: Bruce R. Mate et al. The development of an intermediate-duration tag to characterize the diving behavior of large whales, Ecology and Evolution (2016). DOI: 10.1002/ece3.2649

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