Marine Mammal Research Program

Kailua-Kona, HI, United States

Marine Mammal Research Program

Kailua-Kona, HI, United States
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News Article | August 8, 2017
Site: news.yahoo.com

WAIMANALO, Hawaii (AP) — Compared with other marine mammals, 40-year-old Kina has lived a particularly winding and high-profile life. She went from the open ocean off Japan, to a Hong Kong amusement park, to a classified U.S. Navy program, to a Hawaii research lab. Along the way, studies using the false killer whale — a dark-gray member of the dolphin family with a big, round beak — led to major discoveries on whale hearing and helped develop modern military sonar . "The work that (researchers) have done over the years is quite valuable, and certainly groundbreaking," said Robin Baird, a marine biologist with the nonprofit Cascadia Research Collective, a scientific and education group based in Olympia, Washington. Now, Kina is again making waves, this time with her latest move to an Oahu marine park. Animal-rights activists say the 13-foot-long (4-meter), toothy mammal and her captive companions deserve peaceful retirements but are instead being traumatized as tourist attractions confined to concrete tanks. But Kina's handlers maintain she is in excellent care, receiving the best food, veterinary attention and stimulation, all while continuing to contribute to important science. And park officials say she won't take part in any acrobatic shows like other dolphins in their care. Kina's journey started in the wild over 30 years ago, when she was captured during a Japanese dolphin hunt. She is believed to be the last living animal in the U.S. from that now-widely condemned fishery. The fishermen sold her to a Hong Kong amusement park, where the U.S. Navy acquired her in 1987. For the next six years, the Navy used Kina for classified research on sonar, the use of sound to communicate, maneuver and detect objects underwater. It kept her at a Marine base on Oahu's Kaneohe Bay, the largest sheltered body of water in the main Hawaiian Islands. When that program ended, Kina went to a University of Hawaii lab on Coconut Island, also in Kaneohe Bay, where her science career continued for over 20 years. She took part in echolocation studies that could someday lessen the impacts of man-made ocean noise on marine wildlife. Cetaceans — dolphins, whales and porpoises — use sound waves and echoes to hunt and navigate. But the university was spending nearly $1 million a year to care for Kina in an ocean pen. So in 2015, amid serious funding problems, the school was forced to auction off Kina and her two dolphin companions. Sea Life Park , a family attraction just outside Honolulu, put in the highest bid, and the trio has been living there, backstage, ever since. Animal-rights activists blasted the move as inhumane. Many pushed for a measure that was introduced in the 2017 state Legislature that urged the end to local breeding programs and a phase-out of captivity. The measure failed but could be revisited next year. Activists also recently led an online "#JusticeForKina" campaign to express their concerns about her confinement at the park, which they say causes physical and psychological distress. It's "disrespectful to the animal after she gave us so much," said Natalie Parra, co-founder of the Hawaii-based activist group Keiko Conservation . But Jeff Pawloski, Kina's trainer at the Navy lab 30 years ago and now Sea Life Park's curator, said the campaign has led to a lot of misinformation. For instance, the park boasts daily dolphin shows and allows visitors — those willing to pay a premium price — the chance to swim with the animals. But Pawloski says that won't happen with Kina. Instead, he hopes his old "friend" will help educate the public about how her research aids wild animals. "Kina's done some phenomenal things over her career, and we intend to keep that going on as long as possible," Pawloski said. The park agreed to let scientists continue to work with Kina at her new home. One study will look at how she uses echolocation to find fishing hooks and other entanglement hazards — a major threat to wild marine mammals. The findings could lead to fishing gear that is more "visible" to dolphins and whales, said Paul Nachtigall, founder of the University of Hawaii's Marine Mammal Research Program , where Kina lived before moving to the park. And Sea Life Park, he says, where Kina was reunited with her longtime trainer, is the best possible place for his "old whale." "You want her with the person who has cared for her most of her life, who knows her best, and is in a situation with very good care." Still, many animal activists contend Kina belongs not in a tank but in an ocean sanctuary environment closer to her life in the wild. No such facilities exist, though at least two groups — a nonprofit called The Whale Sanctuary Project and the National Aquarium in Baltimore — are working to create the first two. Scientists agree most captive whales would die if released into the open ocean with no human care. "I honestly don't think that any knowledge you can give out in a captive facility would justify keeping the animals in the conditions that they're in," Parra said. They live their lives "stripped of all their physical, psychological, social needs just for our entertainment." Sea Life Park gave The Associated Press access to Kina, where she spends her days in three interconnected, partially shaded pools with her longtime dolphin cohorts. The enclosure is larger than the one she was kept in at the university. The false killer whale will go on public display later this year after being moved to an even bigger pool with more animals, park officials say. Sea Life Park also holds sea lions, sea turtles, sharks and reef fish. It has a habitat for endangered Hawaiian monk seals and a rehabilitation program for injured seabirds. Nachtigall thinks the best way to research and care for animals like Kina is to have a paying public. "The only places left that keep marine mammals where research can be done are public display facilities like Sea Life Park," he said.


Kiszka J.,CNRS Coastal and Marine Environment Laboratory | Oremus M.,University of Auckland | Richard P.,CNRS Coastal and Marine Environment Laboratory | Poole M.,Marine Mammal Research Program | And 2 more authors.
Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology | Year: 2010

Defining trophic relationships among organisms of a community is critical in ecology. However, the access to data is sometimes difficult, particularly in remote environments. Ecological niche segregation among the most common delphinid species was investigated: the spinner dolphin (Stenella longirostris), the roughed-toothed dolphin (Steno bredanensis), the short-finned pilot whale (Globicephala macrorhynchus), and the melon-headed whale (Peponocephala electra). Resource partitioning was explored by analysing δ13C (reflecting foraging habitats) and δ15N stable isotopes (reflecting trophic level) from skin biopsies collected around Moorea from July to October 2002 to 2004. Results revealed that spinner dolphins had the lowest trophic level. The three other species had similar δ15N signatures. The most significant result is the differentiation of S. longirostris from S. bredanensis and G. macrorhynchus but not from the P. electra. For the latter three species, some degrees of overlap were apparent. For S. longirostris, S. bredanensis and G. macrorhynchus, variation of δ13C and δ15N stable isotope was not significant between sexes. This study suggests that stable isotopes reveal some degree of segregation and overlap within this delphinid community. However, fine-scale segregation processes may be concealed by stable isotope analyses, meaning that traditional dietary analyses investigations are complementary in answering questions related to niche segregation. © 2010 Elsevier B.V.


Andrews K.R.,Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology | Andrews K.R.,Marine Mammal Research Program | Karczmarski L.,University of Hong Kong | Karczmarski L.,University of Pretoria | And 6 more authors.
Molecular Ecology | Year: 2010

Spinner dolphins (Stenella longirostris) exhibit different social behaviours at two regions in the Hawaiian Archipelago: off the high volcanic islands in the SE archipelago they form dynamic groups with ever-changing membership, but in the low carbonate atolls in the NW archipelago they form long-term stable groups. To determine whether these environmental and social differences influence population genetic structure, we surveyed spinner dolphins throughout the Hawaiian Archipelago with mtDNA control region sequences and 10 microsatellite loci (n = 505). F-statistics, Bayesian cluster analyses, and assignment tests revealed population genetic separations between most islands, with less genetic structuring among the NW atolls than among the SE high islands. The populations with the most stable social structure (Midway and Kure Atolls) have the highest gene flow between populations (mtDNA ST < 0.001, P = 0.357; microsatellite FST = -0.001; P = 0.597), and a population with dynamic groups and fluid social structure (the Kona Coast of the island of Hawai'i) has the lowest gene flow (mtDNA 0.042 < ST < 0.236, P < 0.05; microsatellite 0.016 < FST < 0.040, P < 0.001). We suggest that gene flow, dispersal, and social structure are influenced by the availability of habitat and resources at each island. Genetic comparisons to a South Pacific location (n = 16) indicate that Hawaiian populations are genetically depauperate and isolated from other Pacific locations (mtDNA 0.216 < FST < 0.643, P < 0.001; microsatellite 0.058 < FST < 0.090, P < 0.001); this isolation may also influence social and genetic structure within Hawai'i. Our results illustrate that genetic and social structure are flexible traits that can vary between even closely-related populations. © 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.


Carroll E.L.,University of St. Andrews | Brooks L.,Southern Cross University of Australia | Baker C.S.,University of Auckland | Baker C.S.,Oregon State University | And 8 more authors.
Endangered Species Research | Year: 2015

Capture-recapture studies offer a powerful tool to assess abundance, survival and population rate of change (γ). A previous capture-recapture study, based on DNA profiles, estimated that the IUCN-listed Endangered Oceania population of humpback whales had a superpopulation size of 4329 whales (95% confidence limits, CL: 3345, 5315) and γ = 1.03 (95% CL: 0.90-1.18) for the period 1999-2005. This low estimate of γ contrasts with the high estimated γ for the neighbouring east Australia population (1.11; 95% CL: 1.105-1.113). A future assessment of Oceania humpbacks through capture-recapture methodology has been proposed to meet 3 objectives: (1) estimate population size with a coefficient of variation of < 20%, and detect if γ is significantly different from (2) 1.00 or (3) γ of east Australia. The proposed survey design involves using DNA profiles to identify whales on principal breeding grounds within Oceania in proportion to the abundance of whales on these grounds over the 10 to 12 wk wintering period, to minimise capture heterogeneity between individuals and to maximise capture probabilities. Simulations of the idealised survey design incorporating data from the previous surveys (1999-2005) with 3 new survey years were conducted under a range of scenarios for the 'true' demographic status of the population. Simulations of the entire Oceania region showed that the proposed design will give sufficient power to meet objectives (1) under all scenarios, (2) if the true γ ≥ 1.05 and (3) if the true γ ≤ 1.05. Region-specific simulations suggested there was scope to test for differences in recovery between principal breeding sites within Oceania. © The authors 2015.


Garland E.C.,University of Queensland | Noad M.J.,University of Queensland | Goldizen A.W.,University of Queensland | Lilley M.S.,IBM | And 6 more authors.
Journal of the Acoustical Society of America | Year: 2013

Humpback whales have a continually evolving vocal sexual display, or "song," that appears to undergo both evolutionary and "revolutionary" change. All males within a population adhere to the current content and arrangement of the song. Populations within an ocean basin share similarities in their songs; this sharing is complex as multiple variations of the song (song types) may be present within a region at any one time. To quantitatively investigate the similarity of song types, songs were compared at both the individual singer and population level using the Levenshtein distance technique and cluster analysis. The highly stereotyped sequences of themes from the songs of 211 individuals from populations within the western and central South Pacific region from 1998 through 2008 were grouped together based on the percentage of song similarity, and compared to qualitatively assigned song types. The analysis produced clusters of highly similar songs that agreed with previous qualitative assignments. Each cluster contained songs from multiple populations and years, confirming the eastward spread of song types and their progressive evolution through the study region. Quantifying song similarity and exchange will assist in understanding broader song dynamics and contribute to the use of vocal displays as population identifiers. © 2013 Acoustical Society of America.


Garland E.C.,University of Queensland | Garland E.C.,South Pacific Whale Research Consortium | Goldizen A.W.,University of Queensland | Rekdahl M.L.,University of Queensland | And 11 more authors.
Current Biology | Year: 2011

Cultural transmission, the social learning of information or behaviors from conspecifics [1-5], is believed to occur in a number of groups of animals, including primates [1, 6-9], cetaceans [4, 10, 11], and birds [3, 12, 13]. Cultural traits can be passed vertically (from parents to offspring), obliquely (from the previous generation via a nonparent model to younger individuals), or horizontally (between unrelated individuals from similar age classes or within generations) [4]. Male humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) have a highly stereotyped, repetitive, and progressively evolving vocal sexual display or "song" [14-17] that functions in sexual selection (through mate attraction and/or male social sorting) [18-20]. All males within a population conform to the current version of the display (song type), and similarities may exist among the songs of populations within an ocean basin [16, 17, 21]. Here we present a striking pattern of horizontal transmission: multiple song types spread rapidly and repeatedly in a unidirectional manner, like cultural ripples, eastward through the populations in the western and central South Pacific over an 11-year period. This is the first documentation of a repeated, dynamic cultural change occurring across multiple populations at such a large geographic scale. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.


Wisniewska D.M.,University of Aarhus | Johnson M.,University of St. Andrews | Nachtigall P.E.,Marine Mammal Research Program | Madsen P.T.,University of Aarhus
Journal of Experimental Biology | Year: 2014

Echolocating bats and toothed whales probe their environment with ultrasonic sound pulses, using returning echoes to navigate and find prey in a process that appears to have resulted from a remarkable convergence of the two taxa. Here, we report the first detailed quantification of echolocation behaviour during prey capture in the most studied delphinid species, a false killer whale and a bottlenose dolphin. Using acoustic DTAGs, we demonstrate that just prior to prey interception these delphinids change their acoustic gaze dramatically by reducing inter-click intervals and output >10-fold in a high repetition rate, low output buzz. Buzz click rates of 250-500 Hz for large but agile animals suggest that sampling rates during capture are scaled with the whale's manoeuvrability. These observations support the growing notion that fast sonar sampling accompanied by a low output level is critical for high rate feedback to inform motor patterns during prey interception in all echolocating toothed whales. © 2014. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd. © 2014. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd.


PubMed | University of Aarhus, University of St. Andrews and Marine Mammal Research Program
Type: Journal Article | Journal: The Journal of experimental biology | Year: 2014

Echolocating bats and toothed whales probe their environment with ultrasonic sound pulses, using returning echoes to navigate and find prey in a process that appears to have resulted from a remarkable convergence of the two taxa. Here, we report the first detailed quantification of echolocation behaviour during prey capture in the most studied delphinid species, a false killer whale and a bottlenose dolphin. Using acoustic DTAGs, we demonstrate that just prior to prey interception these delphinids change their acoustic gaze dramatically by reducing inter-click intervals and output >10-fold in a high repetition rate, low output buzz. Buzz click rates of 250-500 Hz for large but agile animals suggest that sampling rates during capture are scaled with the whales manoeuvrability. These observations support the growing notion that fast sonar sampling accompanied by a low output level is critical for high rate feedback to inform motor patterns during prey interception in all echolocating toothed whales.


Albertson G.R.,Oregon State University | Baird R.W.,Cascadia Research Collective Olympia | Oremus M.,British Petroleum | Poole M.M.,Marine Mammal Research Program | And 3 more authors.
Conservation Genetics | Year: 2016

Rough-toothed dolphins have a worldwide tropical and subtropical distribution, yet little is known about the population structure and social organization of this typically open-ocean species. Although it has been assumed that pelagic dolphins range widely due to the lack of apparent barriers and unpredictable prey distribution, recent evidence suggests rough-toothed dolphins exhibit fidelity to some oceanic islands. Using the most comprehensively extensive dataset for this species to date, we assess the isolation and interchange of rough-toothed dolphins at the regional and oceanic scale within the central Pacific Ocean. Using mtDNA and microsatellite genotyping (nDNA), we analyzed samples of insular communities from the main Hawaiian (Kaua‘i n = 93, O‘ahu n = 9, Hawai‘i n = 57), French Polynesian (n = 70) and Samoan (n = 16) archipelagos, and pelagic samples off the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (n = 18). An overall AMOVA indicated strong genetic differentiation among islands (mtDNA FST = 0.265; p < 0.001; nDNA FST = 0.038; p < 0.001), as well as among archipelagos (mtDNA FST = 0.299; p < 0.001; nDNA FST = 0.055; p < 0.001). Shared haplotypes (n = 4) between the archipelagos may be a product of a relatively recent divergence and/or periodic exchange from poorly understood pelagic populations. Analyses using STRUCTURE and GENELAND identified four separate management units among archipelagos and within the Hawaiian Islands. These results confirm the presence of multiple insular populations within the Pacific and island-specific genetic isolation among populations attached to islands in each archipelago. Insular populations seem most prevalent where oceanographic conditions indicate high local productivity or a discontinuity with surrounding oligotrophic areas. Our findings have important implications for a little studied species that faces increasing anthropogenic threats around oceanic islands. © 2016 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht


Oremus M.,University of Auckland | Oremus M.,British Petroleum | Poole M.M.,Marine Mammal Research Program | Albertson G.R.,Oregon State University | And 2 more authors.
Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology | Year: 2012

Pelagic species of dolphins are generally assumed to be nomadic, while coastal/insular species often show strong site fidelity. Rough-toothed dolphins (Steno bredanensis) are characteristically described as pelagic, but studies based on individual identification have shown some level of site fidelity near oceanic islands. Here, we collected photographs for individual identification (n=108 unique individuals) and biopsy samples (n=64) to assess genetic diversity, population structure and abundance of rough-toothed dolphins around Moorea and Raiatea (170km apart) in the Society Islands, French Polynesia. Genotype (14 microsatellite loci) and photo-identification recaptures over two to 12years indicated long-term site fidelity around Moorea and a high probability of demographic partitioning between Moorea and Raiatea. There was also a marked genetic differentiation between the two islands for both control region mitochondrial haplotypes (450 base pairs, FST=0.58, p<0.001) and microsatellite allele frequencies (FST=0.07, p<0.001), a pattern confirmed by Bayesian clustering analysis. Around Moorea, estimates of census and current effective population size support a population size in the low hundreds. These results suggest a pattern of small, resident community structure, raising important implications for the management of this species known for depredation issues with local fisheries. Such pattern may be found in other species of pelagic dolphins around oceanic islands, extending the need to conduct similar studies in order to highlight potential conservation issues. © 2012 Elsevier B.V.

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