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All Flesh Is Grass: Right Whales Foraging at the Margins

Constraints on the right whales' ability to find and feed on highly localized, dense patches of plankton may be limiting the food supply they require to reproduce successfully.

Abstract
North Atlantic Right Whales' ability to reproduce successfully and increase their population may be limited by their ability to find adequate food supplies. The whales feed on highly localized, dense patches of plankton.

Understanding the environmental conditions required by the whales is essential to enhancing the species' chances of survival. Initial studies have given scientists a baseline understanding of what these whales eat, where they find it, their foraging behavior, and the physiology of their eating apparatus. Other analyses have explored the relationship between the energy whales get by eating versus what they expend to feed, as well as the relationship between food supplies and calf birthing rates.

Mayo shows that the environmental conditions for North Atlantic Right Whales appear to be sufficient, but, perhaps, just barely so.

Biography
Dr. Charles (Stormy) Mayo is a senior scientist at and co-founder of the Center for Coastal Studies (CCS), a private, non-profit organization for research, conservation, and education in the coastal and marine environments. At CCS's Provincetown, Massachusetts-based facility, Mayo studies the foraging behavior of whales and the health of their habitats and is also known for his pioneering work developing techniques to disentangle great whales from commercial fishing gear. Director of CCS's North Atlantic Disentanglement Team, Mayo worked with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the U.S. Coast Guard to develop a Rapid Response Rescue Program to disentangle whales at sea, the first program of its kind in the nation. CCS is the only institution on the East Coast with federal authorization to perform this highly dangerous work. The author of dozens of papers on whale behavior, identification, and rescue, Mayo earned his Ph.D. in Marine Biology from the School of Marine and Atmospheric Science at the University of Miami.

Originally published: July 31, 2003