Whale Questions

From: Phil Clapham (pclapham@mercury.wh.whoi.edu)
Date: Fri Oct 08 2004 - 12:18:27 EDT

  • Next message: Phil Clapham: "Re: Whale Questions"

    Hi Bonnie:

    Your class is really lucky to be going out in Hervey Bay! I'm actually
    adjunct faculty at Southern Cross University, and was in Byron last April.
     Great area!

    OK, questions...

    > Q What is the most endangered whale of all?
    We think in terms of separate populations rather than species because some
    populations are quite distinct from others. Probably the most endangered
    population of whales in the world is the eastern North Pacific population
    of the North Pacific right whale. There are probably fewer than 100
    animals remaining; this was because of 19th century whaling, and then when
    they were slowly recovering the USSR killed much of the population
    illegally in the 1960's.

    Other really endangered populations include the western North Pacific gray
    whale, which is also around 100 whales. The eastern gray whale, by
    contrast, is doing VERY well - probably around 25,000 animals - but it's
    separate from the western group which feeds in the Okhotsk Sea (and its
    major feeding ground in the site of huge oil and gas development right
    now).

    > Q Why do whales jump out of the water?
    For a lot of reasons that aren't necessarily connected. it's very
    difficult to say why a whale jumps ("breaches") at any one time. But
    reasons can be: play, excitement, signalling position to other whales. A
    lot of the time a breach seems to be kind of a behavioral exclamation mark
    in an excited whale.

    > Q When was the First existence of a whale?
    Hmm, depends what you mean. The first true whales (fully aquatic animals)
    show up in nthe fossil record around 45 million years ago, and all modern
    whales and dolphins are descended from them. The modern whale that seems
    to have been around the longest is the sperm whale, which may have lived
    on earth for around 25 million years. But interpreting the fossil record
    is very difficult, so we're not sure. Whales evolved from land animals,
    and the transition probably began around 60 million years ago.

    > Q Why did you choose to be whale biologist?
    Accident, initially. I became involved by chance, and loved it. If I had
    to go back 25 years and pick a career all over again, I'd stil pick this
    one. It's fascinating, and the animals are great to work with!

    > Q What is your favourite whale?
    Easy: the humpback whale. I've worked a lot with humpbacks and in my area
    we have identified individuals who we have seen for almost 30 years. We
    get very attached to individuals, which we recognize from their tail
    patterns and other antural markings. Humpbacks are fascinating and very
    fun.

    Have a great time in Hervey Bay!

    Phil

    > Yours sincerely
    > Bonnie



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