Whale with barnacles and whale lice

FACT OF THE WEEK: Hitchhikers

FACT OF THE WEEK: Humpback whales are home to three different species of barnacles and one species of whale lice

MORE ON THIS: The relationship between these barnacles and humpback whales is an example of commensalism, where one species benefits and the other is unaffected. The barnacle benefits from this relationship because it is provided with a place to live and filter food. The whale seems to be not affected by this, and might even benefit as well. Humpback whales have been known to roll over when being attacked, so the predator is faced with a tough surface of barnacles instead of soft skin.

Humpback whale with barnacles

Whale lice are highly specialized – each species of whale has its own unique variety of whale lice. Their name is actually a misnomer, because while they look like human lice, they are actually a type of crustacean called cyamids. The relationship between whales and their lice is another example of commensalism, like barnacles. Whale lice feed on algae and whale skin, but there is no evidence that whale lice are harmful to whales.

FURTHER READING:

  1. Danelesko T., 2013. What’s On That Whale? Wild Whales – b.c. cetacean sightings network. http://wildwhales.org/2013/02/whats-on-that-whale/
  2. Sajem Y., 2014. The Symbiotic Relationship Between a Barnacle Living on a Whale’s Skin. Animals. http://animals.pawnation.com/symbiotic-relationship-between-barnacle-living-whales-skin-10968.html
  3. Sandes A., 2013. Whale Barnacles and Whale Lice. Kimberly Whale Watching. http://kimberleywhales.com.au/whale-barnacles-and-whale-lice/

Written by Patrice Hostetter

Hawaiian Spinner and Spotted Dolphin

June 22 Dolphin Survey

Over the past month, the research team has spent most of its time in the office. Very windy weather conditions have prohibited us from doing odontocete (toothed whale) surveys, as it is very challenging to spot dolphins if there are whitecaps on the water. However, we finally had a break this past weekend and spent two days on the water, conducting surveys and collecting marine debris. We were delighted when we had a rare sighting -a pod of spotted and spinner dolphins interacting together! The team collected a number of photographs for our photo-ID catalogs. A good thing that we made the most of those good weather days, because the wind has picked up again and we are now back in the office awaiting our next opportunity to get back on the water.

Field Report From Ecuador

The small coastal village of Puerto Lopez, Ecuador kicked off the whale season with A colorful celebration of El Festival de las Ballenas, honoring a   sixteen year tradition of colorful dance, song and culture. This annual event brings community, local politicians and various organizations together to celebrate the presence of the Humpback Whales.

The whale festival also marks the official launch of the whalewatch season and what locals call a “prosperous time”. From  the first whalewatching tours some fifteen years ago this quiet community has benefited from steady economic growth.

Field Report From Ecuador

Day One:

After four planes, misplaced luggage and countless Sudoku puzzles I arrived  my final destination, Puerto Lopez, Ecuador some  5,321 miles from Maui, Hawaii. I am here to document a two-day whale festival and Pacific Whale Foundation’s 11 year  presence in a growing Whalewatch destination.

I plan to capture the transformation of a small fishing to an epic whalewatching destination. I also want to highight conservation efforts for sustainable eco-tours and communal participation and the local celebration to protect humpback whales and the Machilla Marine Park.

Ocean Camp in Maui

“Go Wild!” The Paradoxical “Promotion” of Hawaii’s 50th State Fair

As SeaWorld celebrates its 50th anniversary, Hawaii hosts its annual 50th State Fair. The theme—”Go Wild!”  The paradox—the display of captive animals, such as a sea lion performance, to “promote” this. The Paradoxical `Promotion’ of Hawaii’s 50th State Fair
Last week at Pacific Whale Foundation Discovery Center, we completed the first week of our yearly summer Ocean Camp where keiki (Hawaiian for “children”) ages 5-12 learned about pinnipeds. The program allowed campers to distinguish the difference between seals and sea lions as well as identify their various natural behaviors like molting and hauling-out. After these fun-filled educational experiences and reading about the sea lion performances advertised on the E.K. Fernandez Shows, Inc. website, campers were determined to make their voice heard on behalf of the creatures they very much came to respect and appreciate without viewing or participating in a sea lion show.  They eagerly wrote letters like the one below to express their concern.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

You, too, can join the plea of our future generation by directly expressing your concern about these marine mammals that were transported from Florida under the guise of education by E.K. Fernandez Shows, Inc. who “strive to provide exciting entertainment and attractions” and  Sea Lion Splash who are the only traveling sea lion exhibit in the United States. To use your voice:

Pacific Whale Foundation strives in mission to protect our oceans through science and advocacy.  We are an active participant in global efforts to address threats to whales and other marine life. We have been pioneers in non-invasive whale research and early leaders in educating the public, from a scientific perspective, about these marine mammals and the need for ocean conservation. We continue to do this through various integrated research, conservation and education programs such as Ocean Camp.

2013-2014 Whale Season Summary

We just finished a wonderful milestone – the first time that the research department completed systematic transect surveys on our research vessel Ocean Protector throughout the entire whale season (December – April). We were hampered by some windy weather in April but overall it was a successful season. January and February had the most whale sightings, as usual, although we did see whales regularly throughout all of the season.

Some of the highlights of this whale season were:

  • 55 survey days and 455 hours in the field, covering 3218 nautical miles.
  • 293 sightings of humpback whales.
  • 12 sightings of bottlenose dolphins.
  • 11 sightings of spotted dolphins.
  • 5 sightings of spinner dolphins.
  • 3 encounters with false killer whales.
  • 1 encounter with short-finned pilot whales.

Thank you to our wonderful interns and volunteers, as well as our members and supporters whose donations continue to fund our research efforts.