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Got Your Back

A pilot whale sports a temporary electronic tag during a 2012 expedition in the Straight of Gibraltar. MIT-WHOI Joint Program student Nicholas Macfarlane, working with postdoctoral fellow Frants Jensen, placed the device with a pole from a small boat. The digital acoustic recording tag, or DTAG, was developed at WHOI in 1999 by Mark Johnson and Peter Tyack. It sticks to a whale's back with suction cups for up to 16 hours, recording information such as speed and depth, as well as audio, including everything the whale is subjected to and every click and whistle the animal makes. The tag is programmed to pop off after a predetermined amount of time then floats to the surface, where researchers retrieve it and download data.

(Photo courtesy of Philippe Verborgh, Conservation, Information & Research on Cetaceans (CIRCE). This research was performed under NMFS Marine Mammal Permit number 14241.)


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