Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Fin whale research poses more questions than answers

Using earthquake sensors to track endangered whales. By Hannah Hickey, University of Washington

May 2013. The Fin whale is the second-largest animal ever to live on Earth. It is also, paradoxically, one of the least understood. The animal's huge size and global range make its movements and behaviour hard to study. 

A carcass that washed up on a Seattle-area beach this spring provided a reminder that sleek Fin whales, nicknamed "greyhounds of the sea," are vulnerable to collision when they strike fast-moving ships. Knowing their swimming behaviours could help vessels avoid the animals. Understanding where and what they eat could also help support the Fin whale's slowly rebounding populations (As would Iceland stopping their Fin whale hunt. Ed.). 

Fin whales sound like earthquakes
University of Washington oceanographers are addressing such questions using a growing number of seafloor seismometers, devices that record vibrations. A series of three papers published this winter in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America interprets whale calls found in earthquake sensor data, an inexpensive and non-invasive way to monitor the whales. The studies are the first to match whale calls with Fine-scale swimming behaviour, providing new hints at the animals' movement and communication patterns.


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