Brown bears feeding on a whale carcass. Several whales have washed ashore and died since May, 2015 and scientists do not know why. From press release by NOAA:

Since May 2015, 11 fin whales, 14 humpback whales, one gray whale, and four unidentified cetaceans have stranded around the islands of the western Gulf of Alaska and the southern shoreline of the Alaska Peninsula. To date, this brings the large whale strandings for this region to almost three times the historical average.

NOAA Fisheries scientists and partners are very concerned about the large number of whales stranding in the western Gulf of Alaska in recent months,” said Dr. Teri Rowles, NOAA Fisheries’ marine mammal health and stranding response coordinator. “While we do not yet know the cause of these strandings, our investigations will give us important information on the health of whales and the ecosystems where they live. Members of the public can greatly assist the investigation by immediately reporting any sightings of dead whales or distressed live animals they discover.”

Experts from the Working Group on Marine Mammal Unusual Mortality Events, which was established in 1991 and is part of the Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program, determined that the high number of large whale strandings in the western Gulf of Alaska met the criteria for focused resources and research, and recommended the NOAA declaration. The rigorous, collaborative investigation into these deaths will continue to involve scientists from NOAA and partner organizations, as well as members of the Alaska Marine Mammal Stranding Network.

These kinds of investigations generally require months, or sometimes even years, of data collection and analysis, depending on the nature and duration of the event. NOAA will publish information on its unusual mortality event website as it becomes available.

Members of the public can assist in the investigation by immediately contacting the Alaska Marine Mammal Stranding Network hotline at 877-9-AKR-PRD (877-925-7773) if they see a stranded or dead marine mammal. Only specially trained marine mammal experts are authorized to respond to marine mammals in distress. The public should not touch stranded or floating whales.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on   Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and our other social media channels at http://www.noaa.gov/socialmedia.

Whalevolution Month #27 – Zygophyseter

Although today there are only three living species of sperm whale, back in the Miocene the group was much common and diverse. With a mouth full of large sharp teeth, Zygophyseter was a type of 7m long (23′) “killer sperm whale”, known from Italy 11-7 million years ago.

Unlike other sperm whales its jaws extended out from underneath its melon, giving it a more dolphin-like “bottlenose” appearance. It probably led a similar lifestyle to modern orcas, actively hunting large prey.

What You Can Expect From The Third And Final Book

Yesterday I did my last read-through of Guðsríki before it goes to the printers. I’m pleased to say it’s in absolute top shape and will be released completely uncensored. I can’t thank Harmony Ink Press strongly enough for releasing this book as written despite its dark tone and some likely controversial elements.

So what can you expect from the new book? You can expect the following:

  • The resolution to Ragnarök’s cliffhanger ending
  • The longest book in the series by 14 pages
  • Three new POV Characters
  • Cetaceans, finally!
  • Norse mythological references
  • The complete reveal and origins of the Geki
  • A higher body count than Books 1 and 2 combined
  • More Walrus related story than either of the two previous books
  • A plot completely independent of archetypes and tropes. Where Valhalla embraced the conventions of mythology/literature and Ragnarök subverted them, Guðsríki is its own beast. There has never been a story quite like it before. This time, the territory is completely unexplored and the events are completely unpredictable.

Guðsríki is without question the best of the books. It’s the climax that the first two were written to set up. It all comes down to the final moments of this final novel, when every piece will fall into place and every question will be answered.

It comes out in October, and should be ready for pre-order any day now.

So if you haven’t read Valhalla and Ragnarök, NOW IS THE TIME!!!


Toothed Cetacean Echolocation 

All recorded toothed whales are known to produce pulsed underwater sounds that they use on a regular basis to forage, navigate, and avoid predators; These sounds also help whales investigate objects from different angles to maximize amount of echoing information and easily discriminate small objects. They produce “click trains” or pulses of broad-frequency clicks. These clicks strike an object, and part of the sound energy is reflected back “heard” by the whale and interpreted.

Clicks can be repeated up to 600 times per second (in the case of bottlenose dolphins)! The rate of click repetition is adjusted to allow the echo to return between outgoing sounds - the speed at which a click returns to the emitting whale from the object is a measure of the distance to that object. Additional echoes that are received may be interpreted to indicate the target’s speed and direction (if moving) – the click repetition rate increases as the whale closes in on the target.

(via: Whale and Dolphin Conservation )

Image courtesy of Listening for Orcas  (listen here)

Whalevolution Month #22 – Janjucetus

Living around southeast Australia 25 million years ago, the 3.5m long (11′6″) Janjucetus had large eyes and jaws full of sharp teeth, and may have been an active hunter in a similar niche to modern leopard seals.

But despite sounding like it should be some sort of proto-orca, it wasn’t even an odontocete. This was actually a baleen whale, albeit a member of an odd group that split off before the development of baleen and kept their teeth. Both Janjucetus and its close relative Mammalodon had wide blunt snouts and very large mouths for their size, suggesting they were specialized for suction feeding – using water pressure to draw prey straight into their waiting jaws.

Watch a blue whale with perfect comic timing

A blue whale upstages zoologist and presenter Mark Carwardine with some perfect comic timing in this #EarthOnLocation clip

Despite their enormous size, blue whales can actually be quite difficult to spot from a boat.

Zoologist and presenter Mark Carwardine outlines just how hard whale spotting can be when conditions aren’t ideal in the above clip… and promptly gets upstaged by the biggest whale on Earth.

This clip was taken from Big Blue Live, an exciting new series coming soon to BBC One in the UK and PBS in the US.

(Go watch here: BBC EARTH)

This blue whale is B105! and It is so far the only Trans-Atlantic-Match of a blue whale

First sighted on September 8th 1984 in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, southeastern Canada. Then the whale was not sighted for 30 years, until Rui Santos from Espaço Talassa photographed the whale on June 19 last year off Pico, Azores. Where it spent the last 30 years? Why changing sides? And now he/she was sighted in the St. Lawrence among a group of some very regular St. Lawrence animals. An entire Ocean Basin as home range!

Whalevolution Month #26 – Eobalaenoptera

Known from Virginia in the United States, and living about 14 million years ago, the 11m long (36′) Eobalaeonoptera was the earliest known true member of the Balaeonopteroidea, the branch made up of rorquals and gray whales.

In both size and skeletal anatomy it was very similar to the modern minke whale, and may have occupied a similar ecological niche. And, while it was much larger than the more archaic cetotheres, it still had to share the ocean with the same sorts of super-predators – and would have still been vulnerable to predation from the largest of them.