Tag Archives: whales

Whales Show Signs of Coping With Man-Made Noise Underwater – NYTimes.com

17 Jul

Have we no shame?

Scientists have long known that man-made, underwater noises — from engines, sonars, weapons testing, and such industrial tools as air guns used in oil and gas exploration — are deafening whales and other sea mammals. The Navy estimates that loud booms from just its underwater listening devices, mainly sonar, result in temporary or permanent hearing loss for more than a quarter-million sea creatures every year, a number that is rising.

Now, scientists have discovered that whales can decrease the sensitivity of their hearing to protect their ears from loud noise. Humans tend to do this with index fingers; scientists haven’t pinpointed how whales do it, but they have seen the first evidence of the behavior.

“It’s equivalent to plugging your ears when a jet flies over,” said Paul E. Nachtigall, a marine biologist at the University of Hawaii who led the discovery team. “It’s like a volume control.”…

The noise threat arises because of the basic properties of seawater. Typically, light can travel for hundreds of feet through ocean water before diminishing to nothingness. But sound can travel for hundreds of miles.

The world’s oceans have been getting noisier as companies and governments expand their undersea activities. Researchers have linked the growing racket to deafness, tissue damage, mass strandings and disorientation in creatures that rely on hearing to navigate, find food and care for their young

via Whales Show Signs of Coping With Man-Made Noise Underwater – NYTimes.com.

We’re destroying the seas – Salon.com

9 Jul

Why do people become fascinated with big fish, in particular?

There’s something that happens when you encounter something that’s greater than you are. And by “greater” I mean something that in its own right can kind of challenge you or stay even with you or say, “Look, you may be up there in your big boat being human, dominant, but here I am and I’m alone in something the size of an ocean and this is my realm.” It shatters the context in which we always find ourselves, in which we normally operate, and that’s one of the real values of an experience with wilderness, I think, is that it makes us appreciate that the world is a far bigger and far greater place than we normally experience. And we’re changed by an encounter with that. I would say most people who are drawn to fishing are drawn to it because it does something for them. It relaxes them, it puts them in contact with nature and it changes their perspective. And if we don’t have that to go to anymore, we’re going to be in a sorry state. I really believe that.

via We’re destroying the seas – Salon.com.

Traffic in Sri Lanka’s Waters Threatens Blue Whales – NYTimes.com

2 Jul

MIRISSA, Sri Lanka — In early April, whale watchers off this country’s southern coast were greeted by a disturbing sight: the lifeless body of a 60-foot-long blue whale floating in the water about 12 miles offshore.

The body was swelling rapidly, and suckerfish swarmed across its skin. Even more unsettling was the condition of its tail, which had been nearly severed from the body.

“It was very obviously from a ship’s propeller,” said Mazdak Radjainia, a structural biologist and underwater photographer from the University of Auckland in New Zealand who happened upon the whale. “It must have been a really cruel death, because it was such a massive injury.”

Researchers say ship strikes are a leading cause of death among whales around the globe. Many that are killed are from endangered populations like blue whales that are barely holding on.

The problem is particularly troublesome here in Sri Lanka, where a largely unstudied population of blue whales, possibly numbering in the thousands, has come under increasing pressure from commercial shipping and from a boom in unregulated whale-watching boats.

via Traffic in Sri Lanka’s Waters Threatens Blue Whales – NYTimes.com.

Cultural Transmission in Whales

18 Apr

Hannah over at Rplicated Typo:

A new paper in Current Biology, published today has revealed that the songs of Humpbacked Whales are passed through the ocean by mechanisms of cultural transmission.