Subject: Gray Whale: Early Migration of Whales Baff (fwd)

Mike Williamson (pita@www1.wheelock.edu)
Sun, 10 May 1998 11:14:22 -0400 (EDT)

Subject: Early Migration of Whales Baff

Early Migration of Whales Baffles Marine Biologists

   Los Angeles (May 8) XINHUA - Near-record numbers of mother gray
whales and their calves are moving up the Northern California coast in
an earlier-than-usual migration to the Bering Sea.
   But biologists here have not been able to figure out whether the
numbers and the dates mean that more baby whales were born this year,
that some factor of food or weather is influenced the action or that
the migration has simply peaked earlier.
   Biologist Wayne Perryman with the National Marine Fisheries Service
has an explanation. He said that the number of gray whales may be
nearing the carrying capacity of the range -- that is, there may be
about as many gray whales as can be supported by the population of
their food, amphipods. Amphipods are small crustaceans that live in
the mud on the bottom of the Arctic feeding grounds and make up as
much as 90 percent of the gray whale's diet.
   Perryman supervises observers who count the mother-calf pairs as
they migrate past in a point in Northern California. As of last
Saturday, 360 mother-calf pairs had been counted already this year.
   The most obvious cue that a pair of whales is approaching is that
the baby whale's head is often sticking up out of the water. Mother
whales and their babies always lag behind in the migration because
they stop and nurse on the way.
   The other adults and juveniles migrate north earlier than the
mothers and babies, and they travel farther off the coast, making them
harder to count.