Sperm Whales Tracked with GPS

15 Nov 2017

According to a new study, while sperm whales travel in a group, they tend to stick close to each other since they’re highly social creatures.

The Autonomous University of Baja California Sur in Mexico and Oregon State University (OSU) researchers in the United States Pacific Northwest report they found that these whales actually spent around 30 percent of their time socializing and resting at the surface.

But, one group of these sperm whales with twenty-seven Advanced Dive Behavior (ADB) tags dove to search for their favored food (mostly the Humboldt squid), they’d often reach almost a mile or a depth of 1,500 meters below the surface and would then go their own way.

According to researchers, during one dive, one particular whale spent 77 minutes submerged in the Gulf of California.

These sophisticated GPS tracking ADB tags enabled researchers to collect extraordinary amounts of information on the movement, feeding, diving and socialization behavior of the sperm whale which was once hard and almost impossible to gather.

Since sperm whales dive to great depths and spend large amounts of time underwater, they’ve been particularly difficult to study.

Limitations in technology had hindered researchers from collecting consistent behavior data on the whales for over 24 hours at a time until OSU and Wildlife Computers developed the ADB tags.

These tags are able to record diving depth in high-resolution and the GPS locations which help the researchers to track each individual whale for as long as 35 days.

The researchers found through their findings that the whales make 6 distinct types of dives which include four  deep dives and two shallow dives.

Deep dives made up around three out of every four dives that the researchers associated with foraging. And, the tracked whales diving to the bottom of the ocean is more common than what was previously thought by researchers and scientists.

According to OSU’s Marine Mammal Institute’s researcher and lead study author, Ladd Irvine in Newport, Oregon, this is extremely valuable information since it shows how the energy resources of the sperm whales is divided into various activities like resting, socializing and feeding over time.

GPS tracking is a valuable tool for any type of researcher and has been used for many years to help researchers gather up important information necessary for their particular studies.

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