Humpback Whale Migration Update: February 14, 2001
Today's Report Includes:
Greetings from the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary
Regular Cruises Keep a Watch
The Stellwagen Marine Sanctuary is sponsoring monthly cruises into the Stellwagen Bank Sanctuary by the Center for Coastal Studies (located in Provincetown, Mass. at the end of Cape Cod). They are watching for whales that stay behind in the feeding grounds to see which whales can be found there on a regular basis year-round.
Researchers on the latest cruise (Jan. 8) reported seeing just one humpback, a young whale named Zeta, the 1999 calf of Eclipse.
The researchers from the Center for Coastal Studies have been filing some really interesting cruise reports on these monthly trips into the Sanctuary. You can read these reports (cruises 1-9) at the following web location:
Another cruise is tentatively scheduled for the end of this week (weather permitting).
Browse Through a Whale Catalog
The Center, along with the Whale Center of New England in Gloucester, Mass. has been attempting to catalog and identify all of the whales in the western Gulf of Maine (with most of the whales being located in the Stellwagen Bank area). Each year (in the early spring) the whale researchers and whalewatch naturalists from the region get together to name the new whales -- usually calves from the previous year and any adult whales that are new to the area. This year there are about 50 whales that will be named at the session which will be sponsored by the Sanctuary.
For a look at the entire list of Year 2000 sightings by the Center for Coastal Studies researchers, go to:
For a look at some of the new mothers of last year, go to their Featured 2000 Mothers page:
A Lesson in Marine Mammal Taxonomy!
Marine mammals are animals that are warm blooded; breathe air; give birth to live young; nurse their young; have hair (at some point in their lives); and live in the ocean. There are three orders of marine mammals: Cetacea, Sirenia and Carnivora. The cetaceans includes the whales, dolphins and porpoises. Cetaceans are divided into two groups:
Anatomy of a Song
Imagine you could tell what kind of whale you were listening to just by the way it sings. Scientists love thinking about these kinds of things. There is a lot we can discover just by listening to animals. Now you can try your ear on a couple of recordings. Listen to the following two whales' songs while you think about these questions:
(Note: You may have a wait for download of audio files)
Food and Shelter Provided by the Stellwagen Bank: Great Answers to CQ #1
Our first challenge question of the season asked why you think Stellwagen Bank is so attractive to whales and fish?
Lindbergh Elementary School in Little Falls, Minnesota were thinking!
Seventh graders at the Iselin Middle School in New Jersey have been doing their homework.
Anne Smrcina explains it with more detail for us. She says that Stellwagen Bank is relatively shallow and very
sandy. Its location between the capes guides water in a counterclockwise pattern around the bays and concentrates
food there. The humpbacks' food of choice, the sand lance, a small 5-6 inch slender baitfish, seek out these sandy
where their food, zooplankton is found. The sand lance burrow into the sand, and then swarm out in large schools
that become the target for feeding whales and other species. When the sand lance are not around, the whales appear
to move further offshore to prey on schools of herring.
Geographers and Map Readers: Response to CQ #2
In our last report, we asked you "What are the approximate latitude and longitudes of The Silver Bank and Samana Bay?" We discovered that you know your maps! The answer for Silver Bank is approximately 20.4 N Latitude and -69.5 W Longitude. Samana Bay lies near and 19.3 N Latitude and -69.3 W Longitude. Thanks to Jessica C., the third graders at Lindberg Elementary and the group of seventh graders at Iselin Middle School!
Whales, Whales Where Do You Go? Response to CQ #3
With so much ocean area in the Caribbean, what characteristics attract the humpbacks to the waters around the Dominican Republic? Students wrote in to show they are really thinking. Your answers that food, sheltered warm waters and relative lack of predators make a good winter home for humpbacks. Show that you have done some studying. Humpbacks are very vocal during this time of year and their songs can travel for many, many miles in the ocean. Perhaps they hear and are attracted to each other. Thanks to Casey and Lindberg Elementary.
To Travel or Not to Travel: Response to CQ #4
Why do you think some whales don't head south like the others? Rory Telander's third graders have this to say:
Anne agrees with them. She points out that .it may also be that juveniles since they are too young to breed
are not making the entire trip but are stopping off the coast of Virginia to feed, rather than go down to the breeding
grounds. Most of the other whales make the trip, but in staggered stages. Pregnant females, non-pregnant females,
adult males, and some juveniles all may have different reasons for getting there at different times.
That's all for this week. Here's hoping we get some good news during the next couple of weeks of lots of new humpbacks down in the Caribbean.
Until my next report, this is Anne Smrcina, education coordinator of the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary signing off.
How to Respond to Today's Challenge Questions:
1. Address an e-mail message to: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Next Humpback Whale Migration Update will Be Posted on February 28, 2001
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