Subject: Whale Feces

Phillip Colla (oceanlight@oceanlight.com)
Mon, 07 Jun 1999 08:53:41 -0700

At 12:57 PM 6/6/99 , you wrote: 
>I'm trying to find out the weight of fecal matter of the blue whale and
the sperm whale. Also, if >you know of a site that would contain
information that specific, please let me know. Thanks.

I don't know of a researcher who is studying this aspect of whale natural
history,
although since it is related to metabolism and food requirments, someone is
perhaps
studying volume/mass of whale fecal material somewhere.  If so, it would
require
a literature search to locate the researcher and information, assuming it
has been
published.  You might consider including all cetaceans in your search, and
if you
find a researcher who has some figures for smaller cetaceans (such as captive
dolphins) you could extrapolate those figures to apply VERY ROUGHLY to larger
cetaceans.

Such as study would almost certainly involve sampling, since it would be
awkward at best to collect an entire fecal movement of an adult whale.  I
think
researchers are probably focusing on what is IN the feces, and may make
estimates
of the size/amount of feces as an ancillary note.

I do have a little firsthand experience with both blue whale and sperm whale
feces.  I've observed vast floating mats of blue whale feces offshore of
southern California.  It smelled fishy but not stinky, and was bright red --
suggestive of the idea that the blue whales were subsurface feeding on huge
numbers of pelagic tuna crabs that were also in the area.  Tuna crabs are
bright red (red going in the mouth gives red coming out the other end!) and
are pictured at:

  http://www.oceanlight.com/html/pelagic_tuna_crab.html

I have also been "dumped upon" by a sperm whale, in the north Atlantic
(while filming them for a Japanese television program).  Sperm whale feces
do not float, but rather form a huge brown cloud in the water.  Some people
look through sperm whale feces hoping for a piece of ambergris, a metabolite
of sperm whales and a component of perfumes in whaling days.  The stringy
remains of deep water squid, upon which sperm whales feed, can be seen in
the brown cloud, as well as (occasionally) squid beaks.


 


Best regards,

Phillip Colla
Research Associate: http://www.hwrf.org
Photographer: http://www.oceanlight.com