Category Archives: about whales

Ice Whale

Ice whale by Jean Craighead George

Recently, I heard a interview on NPR with Mrs. George’s son and daughter. They were talking about their mother’s last book. When I heard ‘bowhead whale’, I perked up my ears. When I heard that her son was a marine biologist and bowhead expert, I knew I had to read this book.

book
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What do Inupiat, Yup’ik and Yankee whalers have in common? A bowhead whale that lives for 200 years, surpassing the generations who try to hurt him and protect him. The book starts off with the encounter of a boy, Toozack, and a whale, Siku. Toozack was kayaking and saw the ice whale being born. Some Yankee whalers come up to him and they get him to tell them where the whales are. The whalers start killing the whales and since he had led them to the whaling ground, Toozack was cursed. He was charged with protecting the ice whale and the ice whale with protecting him. Since bowhead whales can live for 100-200 years, Toozack had to name his son Toozack and charge him with protecting the whale. At the same time, the whalers were also having generations born and passing down whaling secrets to their children. The ice whale, Siku, is given a voice in the book by translating whale sounds heard over the hydrophones into lines and squiggles in the book.

What I loved about this book – the bowhead Siku has a voice, by translating the lines from an electronic device, Jean George gives the whale a voice, personality and brings the reader closer to the action. I liked how the book switched back and forth from hunting the whales to protecting them, to the whale protecting the humans. I think this book is a good read for anyone who likes whales or has read other books by Jean George.

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North Atlantic Right Whale

This is my paper for Coursera.

The North Atlantic Right Whale

right whale
(Source)

The North Atlantic right whale was given the name ‘right whale’ because sailors believed it was the right whale to hunt. The right whale is a slow swimmer, swims close to shore and floats when dead; all things that a sailor would find helpful when trying to kill a whale and retrieve it. The right whale has no dorsal fin, like other baleen whales, instead it has a broad wide back. But it’s paddle-like flippers and triangular fluke help it navigate the ocean. Like other whales, the right whale makes moans and sounds to communicate, but unlike other whales the right whale also communicates with a ‘baleen rattle’. This sound happens when they are feeding and water passes through the baleen plates making a rattling sound.

The scientific name of the right whale is Eubalaena Glacialis which means ‘true whale of ice.’ The taxonomic information is: Kingdom: Animalia, Phylum: Chordata, Class: Mammalia, Order: Cetacea, Family: Balaenidae, Genus: Eubalaena. The common name is the North Atlantic right whale. A related species of the Right whale is the North Pacific right whale and the Southern right whale.

The North Atlantic right whale ranges in size from 40-60 ft long (13-16 m) and weighs from 140,000-200,000 lbs (63.500-90,000 kg). They have a sturdy, black body with no dorsal fin and callouses on their heads and sometimes white patches on their bellies. Their range is the Atlantic ocean between 20 and 60 degrees latitude. Most right whale nurseries are in shallow coastal water. Their are five areas that are high use for North Atlantic right whales they are: Coastal Florida and Georgia, Great South Channel, Massachusetts Bay and Cape Cod Bay, Bay of Fundy and the Scotian Shelf. It is believed that there are only 300 to 400 North Atlantic right whales left in the ocean.

The right whale can live to be about 50 years old, there is come conjecture that they might live as long as 100 years. Female right whales give birth to their first calf at about 10 years old. The gestation period is one year in length. The right whales gives birth in shallow coastal waters off the coast of Georgia and Florida from December to March. A female gives birth to one calf every three to five years. The calf nurses from the mother for 10-12 months and generally stays close to her for a long period of time.

Although the right whale is a baleen whale, it feeds differently than most. It tends to skim the surface and remove zooplankton while moving it’s mouth and baleen back and forth. They have about 225 baleen plates in their mouths that help them feed on 2,600 lbs of zooplankton per day. They eat zooplankton which includes copepods, euphausiids, and cyprids.

One thing that I did not mention about the right whale is its callouses. Right whales have callouses that are white on their faces. They are white because of cyamids. These tiny creatures are crustaceans related to skeleton shrimp and are parasites. In the case of the right whale they settle on the callouses and eat algae that attaches to the whale. The white cyamids make distinctive patterns on each right whale, thus allowing scientists to tell right whales apart by their callous/lice patterns.

The main threat faced by the right whale is human interference. Originally the population of these whales was depleted due to whaling ventures. Now boats, ships and fishing nets can all cause harm to these whales. To help protect them, the NOAA works with people to educate them about right whales and tells them how to avoid ship strikes. The NOAA uses photographs of individual whales to tell boaters where the whales are so they won’t bump into them. The NOAA also works to reduce net entanglement by setting limits on where fishing nets can be used.

One expert on North Atlantic right whales is Amy Knowlton. She is a right whale researcher that works for the New England aquarium. She loved whales from an early age and went to Boston college to study Geography. She did a semester called ‘Sea semester in Woods Hole’ and spent 12 weeks studying the ocean. It was this trip that got her interested in the ocean. She started volunteering at the New England aquarium and attached herself to the right whale research program. She’s been hooked ever since. Most of her job is spent analyzing data and matching up right whale photos to figure out what the population status is at.

Here are three references for further reading:
1. Harrison, Molly, (2005), The Kids’ Times: Right whale. NOAA publication. http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/pdfs/education/kids_times_whale_right.pdf
This is a good site for kids, it gives a lot of important information about right whales but is written in a style that kids will be able to read.

2. Mellinger, D. K., Nieukirk, S. L., Matsumoto, H., Heimlich, S. L., Dziak, R. P., Haxel, J., Fowler, M., Meinig, C. and Miller, H. V. (2007), Seasonal occurrence of North Atlantic right whlae (Eubalaena Glacialis) vocalizations at two sites on the Scotian Shelf. Marine Mammal Science, 23: 856–867.
This article is about using recorded calls of the right whales to ascertain feeding patterns and right whale movements.

3. Cupka, David and Murphy, Margaret, (2005) North Atlantic Right Whale. South Carolina state documents. http://portal.dnr.sc.gov/cwcs/pdf/rightwhale.pdf
This article gives information on the background of the right whale, population, status, habitat and more in an easy to read manner.

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Cetacean lovers in Boulder

I’m taking a break for a bit from the conference, then going back. When you are a cetacean lover it is always nice to meet other cetacean lovers. I have gotten to meet lots of neat people like singers, Cake bosses, and even some mammals that are not people, like Winter.

But, today I got to meet Mr. Fabien Cousteau at the WAVES symposium. See?!

He signed my Jacques Cousteau whale book. I am meeting all kinds of people at the conference and I have some ideas about things I can do to help the ocean. I am thinking that I can get people in my city to get better at recycling plastic bags. I gave my card to one of the NetZero people at the conference and I’m going to talk to the Ocean Coalition later today about it. I also want to talk to the dive people about my lung disease and diving. I know that people with asthma can dive because Mrs. Maris II who started Save the Whales has asthma and she dives. (I have been hospital free for over 2 years now, but I occassionally end up in triage at National Jewish…)

Oh, one quick thing that was also cool was that a Rep. from Monterey Bay in California was here today and he proclaimed Boulder an honorary inland coastal CA community, how cool is that? I am going to tell Mrs. Maris I (from STW) about that. I also need to tell Sabrina from Riverwatch (here we are doing a river sample at the Platte river) and Casey from Cherry Creek watershed about what I learned today.

Oh, and some lady took a picture of my shirt, she thought it was cool. We took my art and transferred it to a shirt with ‘Keep Calm and Save’ on it.

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Two cetaceans – alike and different

How can two animals from the same family be alike and different at the same time? Just because they happen to be whales or dolphins doesn’t mean that they eat the same things or act the same way. Blue whales are the biggest mammal and Killer whales are very smart, but there are ways that these two creatures are similar and yet there are ways that they are completely different.

Both Blue and Killer whales are part of the cetacean family, this includes whales and dolphins. They both travel in pods with their families. They are both on the endangered species list: the Killer whale for depletion of their prey, noise disturbance and ship collisions and  captivity; the Blue whale for vessel strikes and fishery interactions. Blue whales travel from warm waters to the cold of the Arctic to feed and travel back to the warm waters to give birth. Killer whales follow the same migration routes as Blue whales, they also feed in the Arctic and have their young in warmer waters of the South.

blue
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There are some things about these two species that are very different. Blue whales belong to the baleen group of whales and Killer whales belong to the toothed dolphin group. Blue whales communicate with songs and moans, the sound comes out of their throat with a sound so loud it can be heard for hundreds of miles, Killer whales talk to each other with clicks and whistles. This difference in communication is due to the fact the Killer whales have teeth, they use their teeth and melon to make clicks and whistles, whereas Blue whales use their throat and heads to produce sounds. Killer whales eat fish, penguins, other whales and crustaceans and are a predator, in fact Blue whale calves can be their prey. Blue whales eat krill, as many as 40 million a day, but sometimes they also swallow things that are in their path like squid, fish or crustaceans.

The other huge difference between the two creatures is their size, Blue whales come in around 98 feet long and Killer whales range from 18-32 feet in length.

Want to compare the length of a Blue whale to other things? Go here.

It’s good to know that although Blue whales and Killer whales are both in the same family and that they travel in the same migration patterns, they are also very different species that each have their own unique characteristics.

whale
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Anyone whale watching would instantly recognize the Killer whale with it’s distinctive markings of black and white and if you saw a Blue whale you would recognize it by its size, but knowing that these whales are from different parts of the cetacean family can be interesting. Now the next time someone mentions a Killer whale, you can tell them that they aren’t really whales at all, but dolphins in the larger family of cetaceans. You can also tell them that Blue whales are the largest mammal in the world and that they are almost 100 feet long.

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A little about Cetaceans

Hi, my name is Grace and this is my blog. It’s a place where I will tell you about whales, dolphins, and other types of cetacea. I will post my drawings, poems and pictures of whales and some things will be for sale. Anything that is sold from this blog will have 50% of the money donated to a charity such as Save the Whales or Clearwater Marine Aquarium. When I find news about whales or petitions, I will post them on here so that you can help the whales too.

First, I would like to tell you about the types of cetaceans (that’s just a fancy Latin word for large sea animal.) The study of cetaceans is called Cetology. There are two types of cetaceans  – baleen and toothed whales. Mysticeti (from the Greek meaning moustache whale) are whales that have baleen. Baleen are not moustaches, they are plates that sits in the whale’s mouth that they use for filter feeding. The baleen is made of keratin and has bristles or hair (something like that) on the end of each baleen plate. Here is a picture from Wikipedia:

baleen

Some baleen whales are the blue whale, the humpback whale and the right whale. Baleen whales have two blowholes (toothed whales have one!) They filter feed on things like plankton, krill, small fish and sometimes crustaceans. Some baleen whales use bubble nets to catch fish. This youtube video shows humpbacks doing just that (if I were there I would be excited to see this too!)

The other order in the cetacean family is toothed whales or Odontoceti (think of an orthodontist or a dentist, they work with teeth.) Most toothed whales are smaller than baleen whales (well, except for the Sperm whale, it’s pretty big.) Toothed whales like the Orca the Bottlenose dolphin are easily trained to do tricks.

Though they should not be kept in captivity because they need a lot of room to swim and they prefer to live in pods as a family. Toothed whales have one blowhole and they use their teeth to eat fish, other whales, squid, otters, penguins, and other creatures that swim in the sea. These whales use echolocation to find their food.

Both types of whales can breach out of the water. They both migrate at different times of the year. They both use their hearing to find food and to follow their family. Sometimes humans do underwater testing and this hurts the whales’ ears. They might not be able to migrate or find food. Family is very important to both kinds of whales, they live in pods and like to be around each other.

I hope you liked this post.

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