News

No fluke in the science of whale migration

Whales continue to be individually identified on their migration along the coast using the unique detail in their flukes.
Whales continue to be individually identified on their migration along the coast using the unique detail in their flukes.

HUNDREDS of individual humpback whales travelling along Australia's east coast have been identified using photographs of whale flukes captured mostly by citizen scientists, say Southern Cross University marine researchers.

The results are the first released from the East Coast Whale Watch Catalogue project run by Peta Beeman, a Southern Cross University Masters student, and Professor Peter Harrison, director of the University's Marine Ecology Research Centre.

"So far in this study, more than 800 whales have been identified with photos - and more than 450 of those were contributed by citizen scientists - from the Whitsunday Islands to Southern Tasmania," Peta said.

Twelve whales were seen on more than one occasion, while another three were photographed at different points along the migration path in the one season.

"One example of an interesting within-season resight was one whale photographed from a whale watch boat as it travelled south through Byron Bay. Three days later it was photographed again off Ballina, only 30 kilometres away."

The explanation for its very slow travel speed may be found in a recent paper by Dr Daniel Burns and colleagues from the Marine Ecology Research Centre, where it is thought that some southbound whales (probably males), circle back north at different points as they search for increased mating opportunities."

Dr Daniel Burns said the fluke-matching work was significant to better understand whale behaviour.

"We found some adult males travelling from pod to pod and milling around in the Byron and Ballina area for sometimes days at a time. But we need more evidence to determine how this fits into the broader migration picture. Peta's work is certainly helping to build on that," Dr Burns said.

The East Coast Whale Watch Catalogue project has been running since 2008 and aims to engage locals, tourists and tourism operators in the collection of whale fluke photographs. In the past few years it has been supported by an Inspiring Australia research grant that aims to foster public participation in science research.

Peta highlighted the importance of public support for marine research.

"Many people are going out on boats to watch the whales and are taking scientifically useful photos of the tail flukes. The aim of this project is to collate and analyse that data. These 'citizen scientists' are collecting data at many points along the whale migration path which is providing valuable information about travel speeds and migration patterns that can be incorporated into a long-term dataset."

Peta analyses the unique pigmentation pattern on the ventral surface (underside) of the tail fluke that enables individual whales to be identified (just like a fingerprint) using the Fluke Matcher software developed by researchers from the University's Marine Ecology Research Centre and the University of Newcastle.

"The ongoing increase in the east coast humpback whale population is a great outcome from protecting these whales from commercial whaling," Prof. Peter Harrison said.

"Now this population has reached about 20,000 whales it's a perfect opportunity for more people to see and photograph these whales, and images submitted to the website can help our research to better understand the ecology of these spectacular whales so we can continue to improve management in future."

To contribute photos go to www.eastcoastwhales.com.au

Topics:  migration southern cross university



School's out as 50,000 NSW teachers stop work

About 50,000 state school teachers across NSW will stop work on Thursday morning for a salary vote.

Minimal supervision will still be available as 50,000 teachers vote

Angler catches boat-sized bull shark, pats it

BIG CATCH: Tony Lenthall with his large 3m bull shark caught in the Nambucca River on Sunday.

AFTER years of trying Tony Lenthall finally got the one he was after

Homes still without power after that cracking lightning show

Coffs Coast Advocate reader Corinne Jouin captured a massive lightning bolt striking earth last night.

Almost 3,000 homes without power on the Coffs Coast

Local Partners

Relief for storm affected farmers

NSW Government's announces it will provide Agriculture Natural Disaster Relief following wild storms in early August.


Man builds playground entirely out of packing tape

Artist Eric Lennartson is in the process of completing his huge tape sculpture at the Ipswich Art Gallery.

VIDEO:And here's where you can play on it.

Countdown to Woodford Folk Festival begins

ECONOMIC BOON: Woodford Folk Festival is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.  Photo Contributed

The first larger-than-life inhabitants have stepped into Woodfordia

'I need to do what I can': 65km walk for cancer patient

Karlee Robinson is walking from Caloundra to Noosa for her cousin Aaron Parker, who has terminal brain cancer.

What do you do when someone you love has terminal brain cancer?

Taylor Lautner 'spotted smooching co-star'

Taylor Lautner has been romantically linked to Billie Lourd

David Beckham's tattoos come to life for UNICEF campaign

David Beckham has called for an end to violence against children

Pop star Liam Payne's Facebook hacked with porn

"Things that can happen to you when you don't have sex."

Tim Roth was abused by his grandfather

Tim Roth was abused by his grandfather during his childhood.

Leo designs shocker tattoo for Tom Hardy after lost bet

Leonardo DiCaprio has designed a new tattoo for Tom Hardy

Hollywood star at home on the Coffs Coast

FEELING LUCKY, SON?: Scott Eastwood visited the Coffs Coast

Guess which Hollywood star has been seen around the Coffs Coast?

Developer's grand new multi-million dollar estate

NEW ESTATE: This is the only plan revealed by the property developer's new Billabongs Estate in Agnes Water.

DEVELOPER given the go ahead for a massive estate with 149 homes.

Banks reclaim Gladstone homes as job losses bite

LONG FALL: Property experts Heron Todd say, based on key market indicators, Gladstone is still travelling to the bottom of the market, with property prices set to get cheaper.

Property valuers say Gladstone housing market hasn't hit the bottom

The million dollar property to test Mackay's market

This Victoria St building will go to auction Tuesday and investors will be watching closely to see how much it sells for.

'High profile architect designed CBD asset' goes to auction

Chinese locked out of Australian property market

The rules are different if you're a foreigner

The buyer was from China - the trouble started right there

Morrison signs off on new affordable rental model

Australia's Treasurer Scott Morrison speaks during a press conference after a meeting of the Council of Federal Financial Relations at Parliament House in Canberra, Friday, Dec. 2, 2016.

Scott Morrison signed off on development of a new financing model

Ready to SELL your property?

Post Your Ad Here!