Rebecca “Bec” Wellard is a marine scientist currently focusing her research efforts on orcas in Australian waters. Building on her past research studying bottlenose dolphin communication and how boat noise affects this communication, Bec is now working on her PhD by researching orca population dynamics and acoustic behavior in Western Australia.
We’ve got babies on the brain, maybe because it’s springtime, or maybe because we’re expecting a baby ourselves! As humans, we can all more or less agree on what it takes to raise a human baby. However, outside of our species, the parenting experience varies drastically.
Since we last blogged about the vaquita, the world’s most endangered marine mammal, in July 2016, the situation has become grimmer for these tiny porpoises living in the Gulf of California. Just yesterday, the IUCN-SSC Cetacean Specialist Group provided an update on the decline of the vaquita due to continued illegal gillnet fishing in the vaquita’s habitat.
Back in October 2014, Asha de Vos, a Sri Lankan marine biologist, took the stage at TEDGlobal to deliver a 6-minute speech called “Why you should care about whale poo.” She spoke passionately about the devastating effects 200 years of whaling had on global whale populations. She argued that these animals’ importance extends far beyond their charismatic beauty. Rather, as “ecosystem engineers,” she said whales play an important role in maintaining the health of Earth’s oceans.
As humans, we tend to think we’re pretty special–we walk on two legs, we’ve figured out how to grow our own food, we’ve built pyramids and skyscrapers, and we can communicate complex thoughts and ideas. But despite all that makes us special, one human behavior–talking to our unborn babies–may not be entirely unique within the animal kingdom.
For decades, there have been mysterious reports about humpback whales coming to the rescue when animals are being attacked by orcas (large black-and-white dolphins known as “killer whales“). But why would humpbacks spend energy risking their own safety to help others? Could this be an example of animals acting selflessly?
Finally, some good news for the littlest marine mammal you’ve probably never heard of—the vaquita (va-KEE-tah)! Mexican authorities recently announced a permanent ban on the use of gillnets in this endangered species’ home range, a protected area of the upper Gulf of California. Hopefully, the ban will reduce the number of vaquitas that become entangled in fishing nets meant to catch other species.