A team of scientists has a new idea on how to save migratory blue whales from dangerous collisions with ships.
It seems that there is a distinct change in the blue whale’s song just before it begins its annual migration south, Popular Science reports. Paying attention to these changes, say scientists at Stanford University, may be able to warn ship operators in the area of future migration.
Blue whales are in the summer in the northeast Pacific region, but travel to the coast of Central America in the fall. reports PopSci, where they breed and wait for the cold weather. According to research team, recently published in the journal Current Biology, whales sing at night, but switch to a day song just before their migration begins.
“There is an almost real-time signal about what these animals are doing in a habitat that has historically been very difficult to observe,” study biologist and co-author William Oestreich told PopSci.
To learn more about these behaviors, Oestreich and colleagues planted an underwater microphone just outside Monterey Bay and recorded whale vocalizations over five years. The team also monitored the behavior of 15 whales in periods of days to weeks. The researchers also pasted on the backs of the whales including GPS trackers, pressure sensors and accelerometers, which detect small-scale vibrations that they can reveal when a whale sings.
Getting an early warning would be great for both whales and boats in the area, as collisions can be destructive to ships as well as fatal to giant mammals.
“This could be a piece of the puzzle to more dynamically manage those habitats and lanes in a way that allows transportation to continue,” Oestreich told PopSci, “but also in a way that is safe.” for these whale populations ”.