Subject: re: population fluctuations

Tori (
Wed, 28 May 1997 16:22:00 -1000

     I wrote you a letter asking about the humpback and the minke 
population but I dont think I worded the question correctly please let me 
be more specific..... We want to determine why some years humpback whales 
are close to the Massachusetts shore. Then the next year finback whales 
are close to shore and humpbacks cannot be found. The whales do not come 
into the Skelwagon bay region. Each year,what determines which species 
will be seen off shore? 


Yes, this is a much different question and requires more thought. What
would make sense to me, is that they are probably following prey. However,
since they both appear to have the same diet, I guess this wouldn't be the
answer. I would also look at impact to the areas that you are focusing on.
Perhaps the finbacks are bothered by something that doesn't affect the
humpbacks or vice versa. This is pure speculation my part. 
If I was trying to find out why this was happening, I would look back into
historical records and find out when this began. If it has always happened
(and frankly your letter is the first I've heard about this) I would
perhaps think it is a normal cooperative type behavior. Then I would look
into if there is any documentation on cooperative behavior between whales
and so on. Remember this is off the top of my head, now!
If it has began recently, say since the industrial revolution or so. I
would look at how that area has changed at about the same time.
Next I would question where you got your data. What whales don't go into
Stellwagen Bank? Or do you mean certain years? The incidence of humpback
whales there I know is quite high. I have seen recent data on humpback
whales feeding behaviors changing in this area. They now appear to be
engaging in bottom feeding fairly often. They were not known to bottom
feed in previous years.
I don't know what your access to scientific information is, if your are
limited to books in your school library, encyclopedias, or what. If this is
the case, you will probably not find these answers. You need access to
scientific journals. These should be available at your local university.
Maybe this is more research than your teacher expects. 
It is also possible (highly) that the answer is not known at this time.
After all these years and research performed on whales, many areas are
still cloudy. Perhaps you or one of your classmates will have the interest
to continue and find the answer to this puzzle.
In the meantime, I will use my access abilities to look for data on what
you are reporting to me. If you could provide me with the sources from
which your data was derived, that would be helpful.
Looking forward to hearing from you again!