orcas

Ocean Roundup: More Orcas Converging near Puget Sound, Hawaii’s Coral Reef Ecosystems Found in Poor Condition, and More

Posted Tue, Dec 2, 2014 by Brianna Elliott to canary islands, coral reef ecosystems, Hawaii coral reefs, offshore drilling, orcas

Orcas are moving closer to the Puget Sound

Offshore orcas have been moving towards the Puget Sound. (Photo: Miles Ritter / Flickr Creative Commons)

- Recently, “exotic orcas”—orcas that are typically found off California’s continental shelf—have been converging in unusually high numbers in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Scientists suspect ocean temperatures and food availability are drawing the orcas closer to the coast, but they’re still investigating the cause. UPI


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Ocean Roundup: Orcas Can Shift Vocal Sounds around Dolphins, Larval Fish Found to Make Noise, and More

Posted Wed, Oct 8, 2014 by Brianna Elliott to commercial flounder fishing, coral reef bleaching, fish larvae, orcas, walruses

Orcas were found to engage in cross-species vocal learning

Orcas were found to engage in cross-species vocal learning. (Photo: Courtesy of Dr. Brandon Southall, NMFS/OPR / Flickr Creative Commons)

- Humans, cetaceans, and some birds are some of the only species known to practice vocal learning—communicating with sounds that aren’t just innate. Researchers found orcas not only practice this, but orcas engage in cross-species vocal learning, meaning they shift sounds depending on who they’re hanging out with. Science Daily


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Ocean Roundup: Western Australia Recommended to Halt Shark Cull, Orca Pod Saves Member from Fishing Gear, and More

Posted Fri, Sep 12, 2014 by Brianna Elliott to bp oil spill, orcas, sea level rise, shark conservation, western australia shark cull

Orca pod helped rescue a struggling member in fishing gear

A pod of orcas. Recently, members of an orca pod off New Zealand helped rescue a fellow whale from fishing gear. (Photo: Marie and Alistair Knock / Flickr Creative Commons)

- In a remarkable rescue, members of an orca pod helped save one of their own from fishing gear off New Zealand. Rescuers say the pod pushed the orca, who was carrying a 77-pound cray pot line, to the ocean’s surface to breath, and rescuers were then able to take over to free her from the gear. The Dodo


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The Death of a Queen

Posted Thu, Mar 14, 2013 by Sarah Williamson to alaska, killer whales, orcas

A pod of orcas Photo: Wikimedia commons

On January 10, a recreational boater reported spotting the remains of an orca (killer whale) stranded on the shore.  Three days later, scientists from the Canadian Ministry of Agriculture and Land and the University of Alaska-Fairbanks arrived to conduct a full necropsy to gain insight into why the creature had died.

The whale was identified as Yakat, the matriarch of the so-called A4 pod that spends most of its time in British Columbia’s Johnstone Strait.  While the necropsy will not be able to provide conclusive cause of death, Yakat’s death will provide insight into what orcas choose to eat when their favorite meal—salmon—is scarce, and her very location already provides clues as to where she takes her pod in the winter months.

Yakat leaves two surviving daughters, Nahwitti (A56) and Skagit (A35), at least four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, all belonging to Skagit.  She also leaves behind Springer, her grand-niece and adopted daughter who brought attention to Yakat and her family when they generously adopted the orphaned whale in 2002 after it was rescued and released from a rehabilitation facility.


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The Hidden World of the Pacific Seafloor

Posted Mon, Sep 17, 2012 by admin to alexandra cousteau, basket stars, blue whales, bottom trawling, brittle stars, krill, monterey bay, noaa, octopus, orcas, rockfish, ROV, scallops, sperm whales, video

In this gorgeous new Oceana video Alexandra Cousteau delves into Monterey Bay to illuminate the diversity of life at the bottom of the ocean, a crucial habitat that is under the constant threat of obliteration from bottom trawling. Using an ROV the camera captures an otherworldly scene, as scallops flutter by and curlicued basket stars unfurl. Armies of shrimp and brittle stars scamper by, fed by the organic matter from above that drifts down the water column like snowfall, sustaining a remarkably rich community. In shallower waters, coral gardens that take hundreds of years to blossom shelter rockfish and ingeniously disguised crabs, and serve as a nursery for dozens of species of fish. Here octopuses go camouflage against the rocky shale, out of sight of the hungry sperm whales and sea lions from above. Anemone-covered spires upwell nutrient rich waters that feed shoals of krill, which in turn feed blue whales. It is an intricately connected ecosystem and it can be destroyed in an instant by bottom trawling. That’s why Oceana has pushed for an end to bottom trawling in ecologically sensitive areas. And that work has paid off in concrete victories: in 2006 NOAA protected 140,000 square miles of Pacific seafloor from the destructive practice, but more needs to be done. For the most part this world goes unseen by human eyes and it’s why Oceana is working laboriously to document these precious areas before they disappear.


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Whale Wednesday: Evolution is Cool Edition

Posted Wed, Jan 13, 2010 by Emily Fisher to bbc, darwin, evolution, finches, killer whales, orcas, species, uk, whale wednesday, whales

Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Killer whales may be evolving into two separate species in the North Atlantic, says new research out of the UK. (Who knew orcas were common in UK waters, anyway?)

The researchers discovered that the two groups, which they have creatively dubbed "Type 1" and "Type 2" have different wear on their teeth, suggesting different diets and thus different ecological niches. Then, genetic analysis confirmed that the two types of killer whale belong to different populations.

The scientists compared the findings to how Darwin's finches adapted to fill unique ecological roles.

So what does this mean for the future of the North Atlantic killer whales? If Type 1 and Type 2 become separate species, they would require separate conservation monitoring efforts.

And if that happens, hopefully the powers that be will think of some catchier names for them.


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Whale Wednesday: Stuck on Salmon

Posted Wed, Sep 16, 2009 by Emily Fisher to killer whales, king salmon, orcas, salmon, whale wednesday, whales

New research out of Canada indicates that some killer whale populations prefer king (a.k.a. Chinook) salmon so much that the whales will actually die when salmon numbers fall. Here's the curious part: killer whales, as apex predators, have their pick of other fish or even other large marine mammals, but still some populations appear to be dependent upon king salmon as their primary food resource. Another study from Hawaii found that killer whales can identify king salmon even when they are swimming alongside Coho and Sockeye salmon. And even in the winter, when king salmon make up just 10 to 15 percent of the salmon in the water, killer whales use echolocation to pick out their favorite fish. That's some impressively picky eating. A recovering picky eater myself, I fully relate. And king salmon are undeniably delicious. Who can blame them? But suffering king salmon populations spell trouble for the orcas. The pollock industry catches enormous amounts of king salmon as bycatch. And due to the low populations, the 2008 king salmon fishing season was cancelled in Oregon and California, and again in 2009 in California. With king salmon lovers abound on land too, something's gotta give.


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Whale Wednesday: Orca Outing

Posted Wed, Aug 12, 2009 by tmarshall to killer whales, orcas, whale wednesday, whales

Orcas live and travel in pods, which are groups of ten to twenty animals – this is not new information. However, researchers in Russia recently spotted superpods, groups of up to 100 killer whales. These meetings last anywhere from a few hours to a half day and are characterized by common social behaviors – mating, flipper rubbing, synchronized swimming – but to a higher degree than typically observed. What do these social clubs mean and why do they matter? They may simply be another avenue to socialize. Since their large numbers may actually scare off prey, they don’t seem to be an effective way to hunt. Perhaps most importantly, they may be a chance for whales from different pods to meet up and check out potential mates. With calf mortality rates as high as 50 percent in the first six months, any research into understanding orca reproduction is critical in maintaining healthy populations.


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Whale Wednesday

Posted Wed, May 13, 2009 by Emily Fisher to blue whales, killer whales, orcas, whale wednesday, whales

keiko free willy orca

Welcome to Whale Wednesday, the first ever hump(back) day feature devoted to cetaceans. I'm taking a cue from Oceans4Ever, the masters of alliterative weekly features, like Make a Difference Monday and Freaky Fish Friday. Hopefully this will become a semi-regular feature -- what's not to love about whales, after all? Today, three scintillating stories about cetaceans: 1. The Seattle Times reports on the first scientific review of the effort to reintegrate Keiko, the "Free Willy" orca, into the wild. The paper, which appears in the journal Marine Mammal Science, shows that while Keiko wasn't accepted by other orcas and had to be fed frozen fish until he died in 2003, he lived a longer life span than any other captive male orca. Turns out Willy's freedom was only possible on screen -- having been captured at the age of 2, he had been held in captivity too long to make it on his own.


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