Using a variety of new approaches, scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego are forging a new understanding of the largest mammals on Earth.
In one recently published study on blue whales, Scripps researchers used a combination of techniques to show for the first time that blue whale calls can be tied to specific behavior and gender classifications. In a separate study, researchers used recordings of blue whale songs to determine the animal's population distributions worldwide.
While the specific function of songs and calls produced by whales remains a mystery to a large degree, the sounds are thought to mediate social interactions between the animals.
The first study, led by Scripps postdoctoral researcher Erin Oleson and Scripps scientist John Hildebrand, describes the behavioral context of calls produced by eastern North Pacific blue whales. Few researchers have attempted to link sound production with specific behaviors or environmental conditions to attempt to determine the significance of whale calls.
"This is the first study that has been able to study the calls by directly observing the animal while it is calling and gathering key information such as depth and body orientation—getting a sense of what the animal is doing underwater," said Oleson. "Once you understand the context of specific types of sounds, then you can use those sounds to infer something about what they are doing when you are not there to actually see them doing it."
Using a blend of approaches that included attaching miniature acoustic recording tags to whales, Oleson and her colleagues were able to find clear patterns tied to whale behavior, sex type and group size with specific call types. The tags included the National Geographic "Crittercam," an integrated video-camcorder and data-logging system, and the "B-probe," an electronic data-logging tag attached to the animal via suction cup. Those data were supplemented with analysis of whale tissue samples and visual observations from ships.
The researchers found that only males produced sounds known as "AB" calls while "D" calls were heard from both sexes, typically during foraging. The researchers note in the paper, published in the January 25 issue of the Marine Ecology Progress Series journal, that the sex bias evident in AB callers suggests that those calls probably play a role in reproduction.
Oleson hopes such call and behavior information will eventually be used for better understanding whale habitats and calculating species abundances.
The second study, published in a recent issue of the Journal of Cetacean Research Management, describes the first attempt at determining worldwide blue whale populations by analyzing nuances of their songs.
Hildebrand and his colleagues used acoustic recordings from around the world, including data from his own instrument deployments and recordings from other scientists and the U.S. Navy, to create a new map that geographically categorizes blue whale species types into nine regions around the world based on their song "dialects."
While certain regional designations are concentrated in areas close to one coastal area, such as the map's "type 1" classification primarily off the North American coast, others, such as "type 4," are spread over broad areas, in this case throughout the Northern Pacific Ocean.
The blue whale saw its numbers dwindle dangerously before whaling moratoria were enacted. Now the new study may become a tool for representing its true population stocks. The paper suggests that the stock structures of blue whales, traditionally based on International Whaling Commission boundaries, should instead be reconstructed based on song, which would more accurately represent their true population distributions.
"By listening to the animals, you can tell something about the areas in which they are interacting to breed and that's important to know for managing and conserving the animals," said Hildebrand, who coauthored the paper with Mark McDonald of Whale Acoustics and Sarah Mesnick of the Southwest Fisheries Science Center, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Type Region1 Northeast Pacific (NEP)
The studies were supported by the U.S. Navy's Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program, the Chief of Naval Operations, the Office of Naval Research, the National Science Foundation Office of Polar Programs, the Southwest Fisheries Science Center, the Tagging of Pacific Pelagics Program and the Center for Integrated Marine Technology at UC Santa Cruz.
Mario Aguilera | EurekAlert!
Climate Impact Research in Hannover: Small Plants against Large Waves
17.08.2018 | Leibniz Universität Hannover
First transcription atlas of all wheat genes expands prospects for research and cultivation
17.08.2018 | Leibniz-Institut für Pflanzengenetik und Kulturpflanzenforschung
New design tool automatically creates nanostructure 3D-print templates for user-given colors
Scientists present work at prestigious SIGGRAPH conference
Most of the objects we see are colored by pigments, but using pigments has disadvantages: such colors can fade, industrial pigments are often toxic, and...
Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles present new research on a curious cosmic phenomenon known as "whistlers" -- very low frequency packets...
Scientists develop first tool to use machine learning methods to compute flow around interactively designable 3D objects. Tool will be presented at this year’s prestigious SIGGRAPH conference.
When engineers or designers want to test the aerodynamic properties of the newly designed shape of a car, airplane, or other object, they would normally model...
Researchers from TU Graz and their industry partners have unveiled a world first: the prototype of a robot-controlled, high-speed combined charging system (CCS) for electric vehicles that enables series charging of cars in various parking positions.
Global demand for electric vehicles is forecast to rise sharply: by 2025, the number of new vehicle registrations is expected to reach 25 million per year....
Proteins must be folded correctly to fulfill their molecular functions in cells. Molecular assistants called chaperones help proteins exploit their inbuilt folding potential and reach the correct three-dimensional structure. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry (MPIB) have demonstrated that actin, the most abundant protein in higher developed cells, does not have the inbuilt potential to fold and instead requires special assistance to fold into its active state. The chaperone TRiC uses a previously undescribed mechanism to perform actin folding. The study was recently published in the journal Cell.
Actin is the most abundant protein in highly developed cells and has diverse functions in processes like cell stabilization, cell division and muscle...
17.08.2018 | Event News
08.08.2018 | Event News
27.07.2018 | Event News
17.08.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
17.08.2018 | Information Technology
17.08.2018 | Life Sciences