PhD in Greenlandic Baleen whales

18.01.11

By:  Tenna

Malene J. Simon from Greenland Institute of Natural Resources defended her PhD thesis at the University of Aarhus today.  Using archival tags she has studied the movements and sounds of the bowhead whale and showed how one of the largest predators in the world hunts in slow-motion to catch billions of small animal plankton. With the same type of tag she has registered, how the humpback whale, contrary to the bowhead whale, make use of rapid tail-movement to  accelerate and then open their mouth in a wide gape to rapidly engulf tons of prey-laden water in their largely expandable buccal pouch while still fluking.

Read more: Bowhead whale hunts in slowmotion

Furthermore Malene has used acoustic and visual monitoring methods to investigate factors that influence the abundance and distributional patterns of baleen whales off West Greenland. The acoustic signals of fin whales, show that they are present in the Davis Strait until late December, longer than previously thought. The patterns in the acoustic behavior indicate that fin whales feed and mate while still in the Davis Strait, until the area is covered by sea ice. These results change views on fin whale seasonality and habitat use in the Davis Strait.

Read more: Mating song in the Arctic night

She concludes that there is a large unexplored potential for investigating the distributional and behavioral ecology of baleen whales and possibly other vociferous marine mammals in the Davis Strait and West Greenland with the use of passive acoustic monitoring (PAM). The results of the PhD is also relevant for our understanding of changes in the ecosystems due to climatic change and for GINRs advising the Governmental bodies in connection with whaling, tourism and the intensive exploration for oil in Greenlandic waters.  

Malene Simon starts in a post doc at the Greenland Climate Research Center, based on Greenland Institute of Natural Resources, to continue her studies in the ecology and distribution of Baleen whales.  

Mating song of the fin whale 16 times normal speed, M. Simon og Dr. K. Stafford (Washington University) in Davis Strait. 

Simon, Malene Juul (2010)
The sounds of whales and their food: Baleen whales, their foraging
behaviour, ecology and habitat use in an arctic habitat

Affilitations: Zoophysiology, Department of Biological Sciences, Aarhus University, Department of Birds and Mammals, Greenland Institute of Natural
Resources, Nuuk, Greenland

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Malene J. Simon uses radio tracking to locate the whales with tags. Photo: Fernando Ugarte

A humpback whale eating krill in Godthaabsfjord. Photo: Fernando Ugarte

A bowhead whale tagged with a DTAG. Photo: Malene Simon