Whales

The fin whale, also known as the finback whale, is the second-largest species on Earth after the blue whale.

Whales expand their distribution

Four of the six baleen whale species found in the western North Atlantic Ocean (humpback, sei, fin and blue) have changed their distribution patterns in the past decade.

Using 281 passive acoustic recorders moored to the sea floor from the Caribbean Sea to Greenland, researchers from the United States and Canada monitored the movements of the whales from 2004 to 2014. The findings of their study was published in the Global Change Biology journal.

Rice’s whales already considered endangered by the US with a population estimated at fewer than 100

Rice's whale confirmed as a new species

Rice's whale (Balaenoptera ricei), previously believed to be a population of Bryde’s whales, is an intermediate-sized species of baleen whale.

“I was surprised that there could be an unrecognized species of whale out there, especially in our backyard,”

—Lynsey Wilcox, geneticist with the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Blue whale off Sri Lanka
Between 2011 and 2020, 41 different blue whales have been photo-identified from South Georgia, none of which match the 517 whales in the current Antarctic blue whale photographic catalogue.

Blue whale numbers rebound off South Georgia

When whaling all but exterminated the Antarctic blue whale 50 years ago, the waters around South Georgia fell silent. Between 1998 and 2018, dedicated whale surveys off the sub-Antarctic island yielded a sole blue whale sighting. But a whale expedition this year and analysis by an international research team resulted in 58 blue whale sightings and numerous acoustic detections, raising hopes that the critically endangered mammal is finally recovering five decades after whaling was banned.

Humpback whales revel in Alaska's cruise-free summer

It’s been a quiet summer in the waters of Alaska.

With zero cruise ships carrying whale-watchers and glacier gazers—a situation which temporarily boosts the state’s population of 730,000 by 1.4m individuals—the humpback whales in the vicinity have grown much more talkative.

This is the impression that delighted researchers are getting.

Silver Bank: Swimming with Humpback Whales in the Dominican Republic

A young humpback whale calf practices breaching out of the water, Silver Bank, Dominican Republic. Photo by Matthew Meier.

Slipping softly into the water, I had a straight path to the mother and calf that were resting near the surface only a short distance away. We closed the gap as quietly as a group of excited first-time whale watchers could manage and were rewarded with an initial glimpse of humpback whales from under the water. The newborn stayed close to its mother and swam up and over her rostrum as we looked on.

UNSW researcher Dr Catharina Vendl holding the telescopic pole she used to collect samples of whales' blow in Hervey Bay, Queensland, in 2017.

Migrating humpback whales have poor health on return journey

Every summer, East Australian humpback whales migrate from the feeding grounds in Antarctica to their breeding grounds in the Great Barrier Reef. They remain there for about several months, before making their way around the southern Australian coast back to Antarctica for the winter.

Swimming with dolphins
Swimming with and learning from dolphins

Learning the swimming secrets of dolphins and whales

This scenario may one day become reality. And to be efficient, such robots would need to be maneuverable and stealthy, and be able to closely mimic the movements of the marine creatures.

Scientists like Keith W. Moored are working on the next generation of underwater robots by studying the movements of dolphins and whales. "We're studying how these animals are designed and what's beneficial about that design in terms of their swimming performance, or the fluid mechanics of how they swim."