Camera-wearing whales reveal new insights

By AG Staff April 11, 2017
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Whales equipped with digital video cameras are giving scientists new insights into a largely unknown world.

RESEARCHERS ARE ATTACHING digital cameras to the backs of humpback and minke whales in Antarctica to gain new insights into the lives of these majestic underwater giants.

The scientists used suction cups to attach non-invasive digital tags containing sensors and a ‘whale cam’ on the backs of the whales, with the resulting data and footage (watch above) offering new insights into the species, including into their social lives and feeding behaviour.

As the whales plunge, the cameras allow viewers to dive beneath the surface and experience a day in the life of these elusive giants.

Dr Ari Friedlaender, an associate professor from Oregon State University and lead scientist on the whale study, described one encounter with a whale tagged for the project, which circled the research boat with another whale for over an hour.

“They were gentle and curious and seemed as interested in us as we were of them,” he said. “It is hard to describe the feeling of having a 15-metre, 40-tonne whale inches away from you, peering back at you. We were all extremely moved by this experience.”

Already, scientists have discovered the whales spend long periods throughout the day socialising and resting, and then feeding throughout the evening and night. They’ve also gained insights into how the whales blow hard to clear sea ice so they can breathe.

“Every time we deploy a tag or collect a sample, we learn something new about whales in the Antarctic,” Ari said.

The researchers hope to use the data and footage collected to better inform policy and management to protect the whales and their environment.