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News Releases

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Hearing Tests on Wild Whales

Scientists published the first hearing tests on a wild population of healthy marine mammals. The tests on beluga whales in Bristol Bay, AK, revealed that the whales have sensitive auditory systems and showed less age-related hearing loss than is expected.

How Do Marine Mammals Avoid the Bends?

Deep-diving whales and other marine mammals can get the bends—the same painful and potentially life-threatening decompression sickness that strikes scuba divers who surface too quickly. A new study offers a hypothesis of how marine mammals generally avoid getting the bends and how they can succumb under stressful conditions.

Monitoring Bacteria on Whale Skin

Just like with humans, the skin on marine mammals serves as an important line of defense against pathogens in their environment. A new study sheds light on the skin microbiome—a group of microorganisms that live on skin—in healthy humpback whales, which could aid in future efforts to monitor their health.

Study Identifies Whale Blow Microbiome

A new study by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and colleagues identified for the first time an extensive conserved group of bacteria within healthy humpback whales' blow—the moist breath that whales spray out of their blowholes when they exhale.

Scientists Now Listening for Whales in New York Waters With Real-time Acoustic Buoy

Scientists working for WCS’s (Wildlife Conservation Society) New York Aquarium and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) now have an "ear" for the New York region’s biggest "voices and singers"— the whales of New York Bight.

Amy Apprill Featured in Science's Video Series

Amy Apprill, a microbiologist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), is one of the extraordinary women scientists featured in Science Magazine's online video series, "XX Files: Extraordinary Science, Extraordinary Women."

Drag from Fishing Gear Entanglements Quantified

A research team studying entangled North Atlantic Right Whales has for the first time quantified the amount of drag created by towed fishing gear.

New Study Provides First Field Observations of Rare Omura's Whales

An international team of biologists has made the first-ever field observations of one of the least known species of whales in the world—Omura's whales—off the coast of Madagascar.

Whale Research Takes Flight

A research team has successfully demonstrated a new non-invasive tool to obtain hard-to-get health measurements of large endangered whales in the wild.

Scientists Test Hearing in Bristol Bay Beluga Whale Population

How well do marine mammals hear in the wild? WHOI biologist Aran Mooney and his colleagues are the first to publish a study of hearing in a population of wild marine mammals.

Scientists Identify Core Skin Bacterial Community in Humpback Whales

Researchers at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and colleagues identified a core skin bacterial community that humpback whales share across populations, which could point to a way to assess the overall health of these endangered marine mammals. 

Killing Whales by Design and Default

While countries such as Japan, Norway, and Iceland often are criticized for their commercial whaling practices, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) marine biologist Michael Moore points out how the majority of nations are also complicit in killing whales by deploying commercial fishing gear.

Dolphins Assist Scientists Studying Effects of Data-logging Tags

For scientists studying marine mammals in the wild, data-logging tags are invaluable tools that allow them to observe animals’ movements and behaviors that are otherwise hidden beneath the waves much of the time. The tags, which temporarily attach to animals using suction, record sounds and gather information about animals’ pitch, speed, and depth. But what effect do the tags have on the animals?

Study reveals how fishing gear can cause slow death of whales

Using a “patient monitoring” device attached to a whale entangled in fishing gear, scientists showed for the first time how fishing lines changed a whale’s diving and swimming behavior. The monitoring revealed how fishing gear hinders whales’ ability to eat and migrate, depletes their energy as they drag gear for months or years, and can result in a slow death.

Scientists Use Marine Robots to Detect Endangered Whales

Two robots equipped with instruments designed to “listen” for the calls of baleen whales detected nine endangered North Atlantic right whales in the Gulf of Maine last month. The robots reported the detections to shore-based researchers within hours of hearing the whales (i.e., in real time), demonstrating a new and powerful tool for managing interactions between whales and human activities.

Study Looks at Gray Seal Impact on Beach Water Quality

An analysis by WHOI biologist Rebecca Gast examines water quality data to determine whether a growing population of gray seals along Cape Cod beaches can be blamed for beach closures.  

New Research Consortium Brings Scientists, Fishermen, and Managers Together to Address Seal Issues in the Northeast

People come from miles away to see the seals off the shores of Cape Cod and surrounding regions, but the animals are creating some challenges for local fishermen. Recent increases in local seal abundance have led to concerns about fisheries interactions. The urgency of documenting, understanding, and mitigating these interactions has become more apparent.

Study Amplifies Understanding of Hearing in Baleen Whales

For decades, scientists have known that dolphins and other toothed whales have specialized fats associated with their jaws, which efficiently convey sound waves from the ocean to their ears. But until now, the hearing systems of their toothless grazing cousins, baleen whales, remained a mystery, largely because specimens to study are hard to get.  Now, a new study by scientists at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution has shown that some baleen whales also have fats leading to their ears.

Stranded Dolphins Exhibit Bubbles, and Ability to Recover

In a study published online in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, a team that includes researchers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) has confirmed that bubbles do form in live, stranded dolphins. But in many cases, those animals are able to “manage” those bubbles and can resume relatively normal lives of swimming and diving in the ocean.

Skip This Cocktail Party: Contaminants in Marine Mammals' Brains

The most extensive study of pollutants in marine mammals’ brains reveals that these animals are exposed to a hazardous cocktail of pesticides such as DDTs and PCBs, as well as emerging contaminants such as brominated flame retardants.

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