How do you get a super-group of whales to come together?

New research has shed light on the puzzling phenomenon of “super-groups” of humpback whales congregating off the coast of South Africa. (And, no, that’s not a technical term for a revival band comprising whales who have already had successful music careers.) The study, a collaboration between Australian and South African researchers, suggests that climate change … Continue reading How do you get a super-group of whales to come together?

Why don’t whales get cancer?

Whales, dolphins and porpoises are the world’s largest and longest-living mammals – and they can resist cancer.  Why these cetaceans and other large animals evade this scourge has long perplexed scientists, who reason that organisms with more cells should have a higher risk of cancerous mutations – a dilemma known as Peto’s paradox. A molecular study, … Continue reading Why don’t whales get cancer?

Seismic singing

The songs of fin whales can be used to survey the ocean crust, international researchers have just discovered. With a population of about 100,000, fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus) inhabit the oceans from pole to pole. Their calls are one of the strongest animal vocalisations known, reaching up to 189 decibels – similar to the noise … Continue reading Seismic singing

NatureWrap: These guys mess with killer whales

Long-finned pilot whales (Globicephala melas) off southern Australia mimic the calls of killer whales – their natural predator and food rival – as a possible ploy to outsmart them, a new study shows. Researchers from Curtin University also found evidence of duetting – coordinated and patterned singing related to social bonding and coordination of behaviour – … Continue reading NatureWrap: These guys mess with killer whales

NatureWrap: Blue whales return to South Georgia

Critically endangered Antarctic blue whales are returning to the sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia five decades after whaling all but wiped them out. That good news, provided by a UK-led team in the journal Endangered Species Research, is based on analysis of 30 years of sightings, photographs and underwater sound recordings. It follows recent research … Continue reading NatureWrap: Blue whales return to South Georgia

NatureWrap: Remora on a whale of a ride

Remora are famous for hitching a ride on the bodies of sharks and whales, using the suction in their front dorsal fins to seemingly hang on for dear life. Looks can be deceiving, however. By observing camera-tag video data, researchers from the US and Spain have discovered that they in fact move around to feed … Continue reading NatureWrap: Remora on a whale of a ride

Dives of distinction

Cuvier’s beaked whales (Ziphius cavirostris) are continuing to prove why they’re considered the superstars of the diving world, with researchers timing a record-breaking three-hour 42-minute dive. The whales can reach depths of almost 3000 metres, with previous calculations suggesting they can be submerged for just over 30 minutes before their oxygen runs out and they … Continue reading Dives of distinction

Migration: impact on whales’ health

  Whale-watching season is usually a delight for scores of whale watchers along the east coast of Australia. For scientists too, it’s an opportunity to study the mega creatures up close. But for the whales themselves, it’s potentially a time of less than optimal health. UNSW Sydney researchers collected and analysed samples of whale blow … Continue reading Migration: impact on whales’ health