• They have a lot more to teach us.

    We've learned a lot with your help. But there's still so much we need to know to protect our wild dolphin neighbors.

    Give to dolphin research at the Cape Lookout Studies Program.

  • Sea Turtel sick and injured from fishing line

    You can stop this.

    Protecting marine wildlife is within your reach.

    When you give to put monofilament recycling bins within reach of conscientious boaters and anglers.

  • Harbor seal in need

    Save lives, reduce suffering, learn more.

    It's a win, win, win – when you support our Marine Mammal Stranding Network.

    Please give generously to the Cape Lookout Studies Program.

  • Cetacean Studies

    Inspire curiosity.

    What does it take to get students interested in science and conservation? Your help.

    Please give generously to support Cetacean Studies and the Bonehenge rearticulation project.

First Look: World’s Rarest Whale

Written by Tursiops. Posted in Cetacean Studies

Spade-toothed beaked whaleSpade-Toothed Beaked Whale

There’s a new post over at OurAmazingPlanet.com with stranding images of the world’s rarest whale: the spade-toothed beaked whale.

The whales stranded themselves in 2010 but are so similar to Gray’s beaked whales, they’ve only been confirmed as spade-toothed beaked whales recently. The stranding occured in New Zealand.

UPDATE

Click here to read the actual article published in the journal Current Biology by Kirsten ThompsonC. Scott BakerAnton van HeldenSelina PatelCraig Millar and Rochelle Constantine.

A word about strandings

There are many reasons that whales strand themselves, not all are understood. It can be a heartbreaking moment to discover a marine mammal stranding. But we do learn a lot about whale species when this happens. If you discover a stranded marine mammal (dead or alive) contact your local marine mammal stranding network immediately.

Cetacean populations show regional differences.

Written by Tursiops. Posted in Cetacean Studies

Tursiops truncatus feeding technique

Florida bottlenose dolphins stir up mud “nets’ to corral fish (from BBC’s “Life”)

In the short time I’ve been volunteering for the Cape lookout Studies Program, I’ve learned a lot about how our local dolphins behave in ways that are not consistent throughout the world. While researchers are still learning the “whys” for these differences – it’s seems clear to me that cetaceans around the world have developed some interesting behavioral differences in different parts of the world. For example, some bottlenose dolphins chase fish up on shore, and others stir up mud to corral fish and then feed as their prey try to jump out of the nets.

Sri Lanka’s Unorthodox Whales

Which brings us to the blue whales in the Indian Ocean off the southern coast of Sri Lanka. They don’t follow the migration patterns observed in most blue whale populations.

Amazing whale photos

Written by Tursiops. Posted in Cetacean Studies

Weather.com has an amazing slide show of whale photography from National Geographic photographer Chuck Nicklin’s new book: Among Giants: A Life With Whales (University of Chicago Press, June 2011). Definitely worth checking out these amazing images.

Click here for amazing whale pictures!

Small fish feed on a humpback’s loose skin near Maui in 2004. Photography by Flip Nicklin/Minden Pictures, from Among Giants

Stumpy the Right Whale is Being Installed in the NC Museum of Science

Written by Keith_Rittmaster. Posted in Bonehenge; Cetacean rearticulation, Cetacean Studies, Education, Uncategorized

Keith Rittmaster, the leader of Cape Lookout Studies Program,was in Raleigh, NC last week working with Dan DenDanto and his Whales and Nails team installing a reassembled  52 foot right right whale in the NC Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh. Good practice for the 34 foot sperm whale  that Keith  will soon install in the NC Maritime Museum in Beaufort, NC.
Un-posed above and posed below. Above, Keith is in the red t-shirt and below in the blue hard hat with the Whales and Nails team.
For more information. about the whale reassembly process in Maine.
And here for more on the installation work at the Museum of Science.
This will be an amazing educational display. Stumpy, and her calves, were right whales well known to researchers. She had migrated up and down the Atlantic Coast for years.She was found floating dead near the NC-VA border after being hit by a large ship. At the time of her death she was almost ready to deliver a male fetus. The fetus died. His skeleton will be displayed where she was carrying him at the time of their death. Her jaw was broken from the ship strike. Pieces of her jaw bone were used to research the damage from a ship strike at different ship speeds. This is valuable information that will help establish the speed that ships can safely travel in waters where these whales live and travel.

Minke Whale Baleen

Written by Keith_Rittmaster. Posted in Bonehenge; Cetacean rearticulation, Cetacean Studies

MOST IMPORTANT – this article is just for your interest because it is illegal for anyone without an official government permit to possess any part of a marine mammal. This piece of baleen is legally permitted. 
 As I was preparing to unfreeze and condition an entire rack of baleen from a minke whale that stranded in Cape Lookout Bight , I knew 3 things:
1. I didn’t want it to smell
2. I wanted it to retain its beautiful white color    
3. I wanted it to remain as flexible as possible

I found less definitive information than I expected but what I did find was fascinating.
-Baleen is fine textured creamy white with pure white bristles
-Baleen is made of keratin – animal protein. The hair-like structures of baleen are actually small tubules composed of concentric, alternating layers of keratin and hydroxyapatite. Keratin is the same tough protein found in fingernails, and hydroxyapatite is the same mineral that makes bones strong. Using Hair conditioner with keratin will help maintain flexibility in both plates and fringe
This link seemed to be a ‘hair conditioner’ as pure as any I found with a substantial amount of keratin.

PREPARATION OF MINKE BALEEN
To clean and prepare:
-Baleen is not soluble in water but it can be softened in hot or boiling water
  1. Soak in fresh water for at least 3 days (checking to confirm water is not evaporated)  and longer if it has been frozen. Then wash in hot soapy water
  2. A toothbrush is a good size tool and if the baleen pieces are held apart it is easier to get at the side near gums, so blood vessels, fat, debris, tiny critters and flesh can be completely cleaned away.
  3. Rinse well with fresh water
  4. While drying, to keep from warping, either attach to a board or put under pressure of weight. Fans will help speed drying but even so it will probably take at least several weeks. 
 Important technical details:
The factors that cause deterioration of baleen are the same for hair, horn, wool, and feathers, and they are:
1. Water softens and swells the fibers (making the baleen easier to split and
weave).The higher the water temperature, the faster the rate of degradation.
2. Heat induced oxidation; greater than 302° F causes bond cleavage.
3. The alcohols methanol, ethanol and n-propanol cause swelling; isopropanol
causes contraction. In both cases a chemical change (called esterification) occurs.
4. Oxidizing agents (hydrogen peroxide) and reducing agents (used in permanent
waves) cause degradation.
5. Acids less than pH4 and alkalies cause degradation
6. Physical abrasion causes deterioration.
After cleaning protect baleen (and feathers, horn, hair, and wool) from intense light and heat, rough handling, wetting by water or alcohols, and acidic or alkaline solutions.
Compiled by Brooks from multiple sources and photos by Brooks.
   

Humpback Whale Sighting

Written by Tursiops. Posted in Cetacean Studies

Humpback Whale Sighting

Jan. 3, 2005

Today we encountered a humpback whale on our way to the NC Maritime Museum’s field station at Cape Lookout. The whale appeared to be a juvenile and was associated with menhaden purse seining boats that were encircling a school of menhaden. Volunteer John Russell got a great photo of the underside of the tail (“flukes”) which can be used to identify the individual whale.

Click photo to enlarge

Humpback Whale
Humpback Whale

Humpback Whale Flukes
Humpback Whale Flukes

Stranded Sperm Whale on Cape Lookout Spit

Written by Tursiops. Posted in Bonehenge; Cetacean rearticulation, Cetacean Studies, Marine Mammal Stranding Network

sperm whalesperm whaleOn or before January 30, 2004 a 33½ foot male sperm whale washed ashore dead on the west (ocean) beach of Power Squadron Spit near Cape Lookout. The whale was closely examined by NOAA scientists and NC State veterinarians and others to try and determine cause of death but none was found.

 

sperm whalePortions of the whale will be saved for research and education.

 

 

 

  • sperm whaleAdult sperm whales range in length from 50-40 feet, males being longer then females. The size of the stranded whale, 33½ feet, may indicate this whale was a young male just past the age of being weaned.

 

 

  • sperm whale

    tooth

    Sperm whales have long life spans, some living as long as 70 years.

  • The blowhole on a sperm whale is located on the left side toward the very front of the head.
  • Teeth occur only on the lower jaw of a sperm whale. Some teeth have been measured at eight inches in length.
  • Sperm whales are deep divers of the ocean. A single dive might last from 30 minutes to an hour in length.
  • Sperm whales inhabit both the northern and southern hemispheres. These whales migrate north and south with the seasons within their respective regions.
  • sperm whale

    atlas

    Squids of various sizes are the primary food of these large whales; the largest of all the known toothed whales.

  • Parts of the sperm whale were once used by humans, making this whale one of the most frequently hunted whales during the peak of the whaling industry. Spermaceti, an oil located within the large head, was used for heating and lighting purposes. Some Scientists suggest that the spermaceti is used by these whales as part of their sound system. Ambergris, a waxy, gray substance formed in the intestines wherever a squid beak, the one hard indigestible part of the squid, occurs. Ambergris was used in the production of expensive perfume.
  • As of 31 December 1994, sperm whales were listed as endangered and depleted under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

sperm whalesperm whalesperm whalesperm whalesperm whalesperm whalesperm whale

 

sperm whale

spermaceti

sperm whale

hyoid bone

sperm whale

spinal column

 

 

 

 

 

Humpback Whale sighted off Shackleford Banks

Written by Tursiops. Posted in Cetacean Studies

Humpback Whale sighted off Shackleford Banks

On January 8, 2004 as we were running our bottlenose dolphin survey route along the offshore side of Shackleford Banks Nan saw something big in the distance. We quickly realized that we were looking at a whale. We changed our directions and went about a mile offshore where we saw a humpback whale heading south. Keith took these 2 pictures and we continued with our bottlenose dolphin survey.

Humpback Whale

Humpback Whale