Baleen Whales (baleen + whale)

Distribution by Scientific Domains

Selected Abstracts

Habitat-specific normal and reverse diel vertical migration in the plankton-feeding basking shark

Summary 1Megaplanktivores such as filter-feeding sharks and baleen whales are at the apex of a short food chain (phytoplankton,zooplankton,vertebrate) and are sensitive indicators of sea-surface plankton availability. Even though they spend the majority of their time below the surface it is still not known how most of these species utilize vertical habitat and adapt to short-term changes in food availability. 2A key factor likely to control vertical habitat selection by planktivorous sharks is the diel vertical migration (DVM) of zooplankton; however, no study has determined whether specific ocean-habitat type influences their behavioural strategy. Based on the first high-resolution dive data collected for a plankton-feeding fish species we show that DVM patterns of the basking shark Cetorhinus maximus reflect habitat type and zooplankton behaviour. 3In deep, well-stratified waters sharks exhibited normal DVM (dusk ascent,dawn descent) by tracking migrating sound-scattering layers characterized by Calanus and euphausiids. Sharks occupying shallow, inner-shelf areas near thermal fronts conducted reverse DVM (dusk descent,dawn ascent) possibly due to zooplankton predator,prey interactions that resulted in reverse DVM of Calanus. 4These opposite DVM patterns resulted in the probability of daytime-surface sighting differing between these habitats by as much as two orders of magnitude. Ship-borne surveys undertaken at the same time as trackings reflected these behavioural differences. 5The tendency of basking sharks to feed or rest for long periods at the surface has made them vulnerable to harpoon fisheries. Ship-borne and aerial surveys also use surface occurrence to assess distribution and abundance for conservation purposes. Our study indicates that without bias reduction for habitat-specific DVM patterns, current surveys could under- or overestimate shark abundance by at least 10-fold. [source]

Morphological specializations of baleen whales associated with hydrodynamic performance and ecological niche

Becky L. Woodward
Abstract Feeding behavior, prey type, and habitat appear to be associated with the morphological design of body, fluke, and flippers in baleen whales. Morphometric data from whaling records and recent stranding events were compiled, and morphometric parameters describing the body length, and fluke and flipper dimensions for an "average" blue whale Balaenoptera musculus, humpback whale Megaptera novaeangliae, gray whale Eschrichtius robustus, and right whale Eubalaena glacialis were determined. Body mass, body volume, body surface area, and fluke and flipper surface areas were estimated. The resultant morphological configurations lent themselves to the following classifications based on hydrodynamic principles: fast cruiser, slow cruiser, fast maneuverer, and slow maneuverer. Blue whales have highly streamlined bodies with small, high aspect ratio flippers and flukes for fast efficient cruising in the open ocean. On the other hand, the rotund right whale has large, high aspect ratio flukes for efficient slow speed cruising that is optimal for their continuous filter feeding technique. Humpbacks have large, high aspect ratio flippers and a large, low aspect ratio tail for quick acceleration and high-speed maneuvering which would help them catch their elusive prey, while gray whales have large, low aspect ratio flippers and flukes for enhanced low-speed maneuvering in complex coastal water habitats. J. Morphol., 2006. 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc. [source]

Fight or flight: antipredator strategies of baleen whales

MAMMAL REVIEW, Issue 1 2008
ABSTRACT 1The significance of killer whale Orcinus orca predation on baleen whales (Mysticeti) has been a topic of considerable discussion and debate in recent years. Discourse has been constrained by poor understanding of predator-prey dynamics, including the relative vulnerability of different mysticete species and age classes to killer whales and how these prey animals avoid predation. Here we provide an overview and analysis of predatory interactions between killer whales and mysticetes, with an emphasis on patterns of antipredator responses. 2Responses of baleen whales to predatory advances and attacks by killer whales appear to fall into two distinct categories, which we term the fight and flight strategies. The fight strategy consists of active physical defence, including self-defence by single individuals, defence of calves by their mothers and coordinated defence by groups of whales. It is documented for five mysticetes: southern right whale Eubalaena australis, North Atlantic right whale Eubalaena glacialis, bowhead whale Balaena mysticetus, humpback whale Megaptera novaeangliae and grey whale Eschrichtius robustus. The flight strategy consists of rapid (20,40 km/h) directional swimming away from killer whales and, if overtaken and attacked, individuals do little to defend themselves. This strategy is documented for six species in the genus Balaenoptera. 3Many aspects of the life history, behaviour and morphology of mysticetes are consistent with their antipredator strategy, and we propose that evolution of these traits has been shaped by selection for reduced predation. Fight species tend to have robust body shapes and are slow but relatively manoeuvrable swimmers. They often calve or migrate in coastal areas where proximity to shallow water provides refuge and an advantage in defence. Most fight species have either callosities (rough and hardened patches of skin) or encrustations of barnacles on their bodies, which may serve (either primarily or secondarily) as weapons or armour for defence. Flight species have streamlined body shapes for high-speed swimming and they can sustain speeds necessary to outrun pursuing killer whales (>15,20 km/h). These species tend to favour pelagic habitats and calving grounds where prolonged escape sprints from killer whales are possible. 4The rarity of observed successful attacks by killer whales on baleen whales, especially adults, may be an indication of the effectiveness of these antipredator strategies. Baleen whales likely offer low profitability to killer whales, relative to some other marine mammal prey. High-speed pursuit of flight species has a high energetic cost and a low probability of success while attacks on fight species can involve prolonged handling times and a risk of serious injury. [source]


David W. Laist
Abstract Although collisions with motorized ships are a recognized source of whale mortality, little has been done to compile information on the frequency of their occurrence or contributing factors. We searched historical records and computerized stranding databases for evidence of ship strikes involving great whales (i. e., baleen whales and the sperm whale). Historical records suggest that ship strikes fatal to whales first occurred late in the 1800s as ships began to reach speeds of 13-15 kn, remained infrequent until about 1950, and then increased during the 1950s-1970s as the number and speed of ships increased. Of 11 species known to be hit by ships, fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus) are struck most frequently; right whales (Eubalaena glacialis and E. australis), humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae), sperm whales (Physeter catodon), and gray whales (Escbricbtius robustus) are hit commonly. In some areas, one-third of all fin whale and right whale strandings appear to involve ship strikes. To assess contributing factors, we compiled descriptions of 58 collisions. They indicate that all sizes and types of vessels can hit whales; most lethal or severe injuries are caused by ships 80 m or longer; whales usually are not seen beforehand or are seen too late to be avoided; and most lethal or severe injuries involve ships travelling 14 kn or faster. Ship strikes can significantly affect small populations of whales, such as northern right whales in the western North Atlantic. In areas where special caution is needed to avoid such events, measures to reduce the vessel speed below 14 kn may be beneficial. [source]

Optimal harvesting policies for a generalized Gordon,Schaefer model in randomly varying environment

M. A. Shah
Abstract A non-linear stochastic model has been proposed and analized for fish harvesting. The model encompasses Gordon,Schaefer model and Pella,Tomlinson model that have been used in the study of extensive data on baleen whales, harp seals and Gulf of St. Lawrence cod. It has been established that the harvesting of those species is more profitable in terms of biomass for which data supports ,>2, as compared to that for which ,,2, where , is general index in the model: Copyright 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. [source]