Friday, 10 November 2017

More gray whales are risking their lives for shrimp cocktail

By Elizabeth PennisiOct. 26, 2017 , 12:00 PM

HALIFAX, CANADA—Among cetaceans, gray whales are the curmudgeons: They’re often reclusive and set in their ways, spending much of their time nosing alone along the Arctic Ocean bottom for tasty invertebrates. But a dozen gray whales along the coast of Washington state are showing that even loners can get social. Using special suction cup tags with cameras and sensors—plus high-resolution satellite images from Google Earth—marine biologists have found that a small party of whales has started detouring 200 kilometers to feast on ghost shrimp during their annual northward migration—and that the party is getting bigger all the time. That behavior reveals that even gray whales can learn new tricks from their companions, the scientists say.

Perhaps the biggest surprise was that the whales are spending “a lot” of time together, said John Calambokidis, a marine mammal researcher at the Cascadia Research Collective in Olympia, here at this week’s biennial meeting of the Society for Marine Mammalogy.

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