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Right Whale Migration Update: April 14, 1999

Today's Report Includes:

Greetings from the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary.

The right whales are still hanging out in Cape Cod Bay, with one continuing to feed on the northern corner of Stellwagen Bank and others starting to hang out in the Great South Channel.

A Baby for Baldy?
No mother-calf pairs to report yet from these shores. However, researchers have reported seeing one large female, nicknamed Baldy, who appears quite big and round. They report she is one of the whales who was due to calf, so they're hoping the large size is an indication that she's pregnant and stocking up on food

Challenge Question #9
"Why would a right whale appear pregnant in April, when we've heard about right whales giving birth in January?"

(To respond to this question, please follow the instructions below.)

Calanus Copepod Cafe
Researchers from the Center for Coastal Studies report that the whales seem to be doing a lot more surface and subsurface skim feeding. Ed Lyman, one of the scientists there, reported that they even saw whales using a very high feeding technique where a good portion of the baleen can be seen out of the water.

Juliette Finzi, a research assistant at the Center, specializes in plankton -- the preferred food of these large marine mammals. She notes that as of mid-March, the zooplankton species in highest concentration is the Calanus copepod. Copepods are probably the most common type of animal life in the marine environment although different species can be found in greater or larger concentrations at different times of the year and at different depths.

Right whales seem to prefer to feed on Calanus copepods, especially Calanus finmarchicus, the largest of the copepods (but still smaller than a grain of rice). These Calanus copepods seem to be concentrating within the top 10 meters of the water column, hence the skim feeding behaviors of the whales. Before mid-March, the zooplankton studies showed a variable mix of copepods (including pseudocalanus and centropages), but no large concentrations of any one species.

This is Anne Smrcina, education coordinator of the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, signing off.

How to Respond to Today's Right Whale Challenge Question:

1. Address an E-mail message to: jn-challenge-rwhale@learner.org

2. In the Subject Line of your message write: Challenge Question #9.

3. In the body of the EACH message, give your answer to ONE question above.

The Next Right Whale Migration Update will Be Posted on April 28, 1999.

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