Low-flying research drones have to watch out for whale snot. Researchers for Ocean Alliance are using DJI's Phantom 4 drone to shadow blue whales in the sea of Cortez, allowing them to capture pictures, video, and — yes — gooey biological samples without disturbing the creatures.
“Head trainer Teri Turner Bolton presses her palms together over her head, the signal to innovate, and then puts her fists together, the sign for “tandem.” Comparative psychologist Stan Kuczaj records several seconds of audible chirping between [the dolphins] Hector and Han, then his camera captures them both slowly rolling over in unison and flapping their tails three times simultaneously. [...] Either one dolphin is mimicking the other [...] or it’s not an illusion at all: When they whistle back and forth beneath the surface, they’re literally discussing a plan.” [more inside]
...the big baleen whales can be over 100 feet in length, so their reproductive tracts likely wind for several feet. That’s a vagina you could walk through. (SFW)
Lovatt reasoned that if she could live with a dolphin around the clock, nurturing its interest in making human-like sounds, like a mother teaching a child to speak, they'd have more success. - stories from the NASA- funded project to teach Dolphins to talk using LSD (among other methods. )
The release today of the documentary Blackfish has SeaWorld, the setting of the documentary, in an unusually aggressive yet defensive public relations battle with the makers of the film. The film centers on the orca that perform in captivity at SeaWorld, and explores the 2010 death of Dawn Brancheau by the actions of the orca Tilikum. In January, the documentary series Frontline explored the world of captive cetaceans, particualrly at SeaWorld in their film, A Whale of a Business. [more inside]
Researchers think that the late beluga whale named NOC had been trying to speak with a human accent – or at least talk to its keepers. Current Biology has more (PDF link).
Researchers sneak up on sleeping sperm whales (.mpg video, hosted by Current Biology.) Matt Kaplan, writing in Nature, summarizes a 2008 article in Current Biology: "An accidental encounter with a pod of sleeping sperm whales has opened researchers’ eyes to some unknown sleep behaviours of these giant sea creatures . . . A team led by Luke Rendell at the University of St Andrew’s, UK, were monitoring calls and behaviour in sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) off the northern Chile coast when they accidentally drifted into the middle of a pod of whales hanging vertically in the water, their noses poking out of the surface. At least two of the whales were facing the boat, but not a single animal responded." [more inside]
A Mind in the Water: The dolphin as our beast of burden. "The shocking double life of the dolphin, featuring neuropsychologists, hippies, spies, and extraterrestrials."