Video Solves Mystery of How Narwhals Use Their Tusks

Ocean Leadership ~

A new study has shown narwhals , who live in the Arctic, can see with sound. (Credit: Dr. Kristin Laidre/NOAA)

(Click to enlarge) (Credit: Dr. Kristin Laidre/NOAA)

The unicorn of the sea just got a little less mysterious. Until now, how narwhals used their long tusks had been subject to much speculation by scientists. Behavior captured for the first time on camera shows narwhals using the long tusks protruding from their heads to stun Arctic cod by hitting them, using jagged, quick movements. This behavior immobilizes the fish, making them easier to prey upon.

(From National Geographic / by Sarah Gibbens) — The footage was shot by two drones in Tremblay Sound, Nunavat, in Canada’s far Northeastern regions by Adam Ravetch for the World Wildlife Fund Canada and researchers from Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Brandon Laforest, a senior specialist of Arctic species and ecosystems with WWF-Canada, explained why narwhals have been such a mysterious species.

“They don’t jump like other whales. They are also notoriously skittish,” said Laforest. “This is an entirely new observation of how the tusk is used.”

Laforest, working with officials from the Canadian government, spent time camped in the narwhal’s winter habitat. Because of the remote regions in which narwhals live, visual confirmation of their behavior has been difficult to ascertain.

Marianne Marcoux, a research scientist for Fisheries and Oceans Canada, noted that drones have been an innovative tool for studying these elusive animals.

“Drones are very exciting, we can see things we couldn’t see before,” said Marcoux. Previous aerial observations were conducted by small planes that often provided an incomplete view or frightened the animals.

Three quarters of the world’s population can be found in neighboring Lancaster Sound, which is being considered by the Canadian government for a protected area.

While the footage confirms one theory of how narwhals use their tusks, they may be used for other purposes as well, such as for ice picks, weapons, sexual selection, or as a tool for echolocation. Laforest, however, thinks they may be especially important as sensory organs. Their tusks are covered in thousands of nerve endings and pores that help narwhals sense the environment around them.

“They can feel their surroundings similar to how a human’s broken tooth would have feeling,” said Marcoux.

The tusk is a left canine tooth protruding from the heads of males and can grow as long as nine feet. The right canine stays embedded, and no other teeth protrude from the inside of their mouths; narwhals instead use suction to swallow their prey whole.

The new footage is also significant for conservation efforts because it shows that narwhals feed in the waters in their summer waters. Scientists previously believed they fed exclusively in their winter waters around the southern portion of Baffin Island. Identifying the key regions that narwhals depend on for feeding and calving can help conservationists better preserve their environment and migratory routes.

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Opportunity: Request For Comment: Analysis And Review Of Ocean Exploration Video Products (Sept. 15)

Ocean Leadership ~

employment-opportunites-e1433868852278Telepresence uses satellite communication from ship to shore to bring the unknown ocean to the screens of scientists and the general public in their homes, schools or offices. 

(From Federal Register)– With technology constantly evolving it is important to address the needs of the shore based scientists and public to maintain a high level of participation. We will use voluntary surveys to identify the needs of users of data, best approaches to leverage expertise of shore based participants and to create a “Citizen Science” web portal for meaningful public engagement focused on ocean exploration.

Comments are invited on: (a) Whether the proposed collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of the functions of the agency, including whether the information shall have practical utility; (b) the accuracy of the agency’s estimate of the burden (including hours and cost) of the proposed collection of information; (c) ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; and (d) ways to minimize the burden of the collection of information on respondents, including through the use of automated collection techniques or other forms of information technology.Show citation box

Comments submitted in response to this notice will be summarized and/or included in the request for OMB approval of this information collection; they also will become a matter of public record.

Comments are requested by 09/15/2016

The post Opportunity: Request For Comment: Analysis And Review Of Ocean Exploration Video Products (Sept. 15) appeared on Consortium for Ocean Leadership.

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23-Second Video Shows Old Arctic Sea Ice’s Demise

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Leopard Seals Are Bullies, Thieves, New Video Shows

Leopard seal (Hydrurga leptonyx). (Credit: NOAA)

(Click to enlarge) Leopard seal (Hydrurga leptonyx). (Credit: NOAA)

Leopard seals can grow up to 12 feet (about 4 meters) long and sport heads bigger than a grizzly bear. Their razor-sharp teeth are made to rip apart seals, and they’ve been known to snatch people and drag them underwater.

(From National Geographic / by Jame J. Lee) — But studying them has been a challenge, and so this top predator has largely remained a mystery—until now.

Over 50 hours of video footage of leopard seals in Antarctica show them doing things we’ve never seen before, including stealing food from each other, dragging fur seal pups right off beaches, and rooting out fish from seafloor crevices.

The seals also engage in what scientists think is food caching—or taking prey only to hide it on the seafloor to save for later. (Read about how a leopard seal “fed” a photographer penguins.)

The animals’ solitary nature and preference for pack ice—chunks of ice far offshore often separated by hundreds of miles of open ocean—made it nearly impossible to study them in the past.

No one wants to squeeze themselves onto a small chunk of sea ice to attach a satellite tag or video camera to a polar bear-size predator, says Kyler Abernathy, National Geographic’s director of research for remote imaging. Leopard seals eat pretty much everything else out there, he says. “They’re the badass of the seal world.”

But the recent shrinking of sea ice around a land-based science station at Livingston Island’s Cape Shirreff encouraged leopards seals to start congregating on nearby beaches.

This gave researchers the opening they needed to attach video cameras—dubbed Crittercams—to seven female leopard seals to see what these enormous animals did all day.

Scientists captured and sedated the same group of seals in January and February 2013 and 2014 in order to glue Crittercams to the animal’s backs just behind their heads. The team reported their results in the journal Animal Biotelemetry this month.

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Consortium for Ocean Leadership

Cop Saves Baby Skunk from Yogurt Cup in Viral Video Gem

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Video: The Challenges Of Wiring Up An Undersea Volcano

The challenges of wiring up an undersea volcano. (Credit: PBS)Hundreds of miles off the coast of Oregon and Washington, there’s an undersea volcano known as Axial Seamount.

(From PBS) —  Two months ago when it began spewing lava, it wasn’t a secret to a group of scientists engaged in a groundbreaking research project.

Hari Sreenivasan reports on their Cabled Observatory — a network of sensors, moorings and cameras that offers views of a little-known world.

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Consortium for Ocean Leadership

Amazing New Video: Perspectives on Ocean Exploration

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Consortium for Ocean Leadership