A whale of a mystery: scientists investigate the puzzling death of an endangered sea creature.Sunday, September 3, 2006 NOVA SCOTIA Nova Scotia (nō`və skō`shə) [Lat.,=new Scotland], province (2001 pop. 908,007), 21,425 sq mi (55,491 sq km), E Canada. Geography
The Canadian Coast Guard The Canadian Coast Guard or CCG (Fr. Garde côtière canadienne or GCC) is the coast guard of Canada.
It is the civilian federal agency responsible for providing marine search and rescue (SAR) under the auspices of the National Search and Rescue Program, (CCG CCG Chicago
CCG Collectible Card Game
CCG Canadian Coast Guard
CCG Country Commercial Guide
CCG Children's Cancer Group
CCG Commission Canadienne des Grains (Canadian Grain Commission) ) receives a phone call. The caller says a dead whale is drifting off the coast of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia Yarmouth is a town and major fishing and ferry port located on the Gulf of Maine in southwestern Nova Scotia, Canada. It is sometimes referred to as "The Gateway to Nova Scotia". . The CCG immediately sails to the reported site. Members of the agency use ropes to tie the whale carcass to their boat and tow it onto a remote beach in Kelley's Cove, a seaside village in Yarmouth.
At first glance, it is hard to identify the dead 40-ton animal: a North Atlantic right whale The North Atlantic Right Whale (Eubalaena glacialis) is a baleen whale, one of three species formerly called classified as the Right Whale belonging to the genus Eubalaena. About 300 North Atlantic Right Whales live in the North Atlantic Ocean. . When alive, the marine mammal has a glossy black body. But the carcass lying on the beach looks like a giant white blob.
Agents from the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans rush to the scene. As they study the whale carcass, they wonder how the animal died. They are particularly concerned because the North Atlantic right whale is an endangered species endangered species, any plant or animal species whose ability to survive and reproduce has been jeopardized by human activities. In 1999 the U.S. government, in accordance with the U.S. . Approximately 400 members of this species exist in the world today, and they are at risk of dying out. So whenever a right whale dies in Canadian or U.S. waters, that country's wildlife officials immediately call upon experts to perform a necropsy necropsy /nec·rop·sy/ (nek´rop-se) examination of a body after death; autopsy.
examination of a body after death. See also autopsy. . This medical exam offers clues to how the animal died, and the information could help officials find ways to better protect the endangered whales.
September 4, 2006 KELLEY'S COVE
Michael Moore, a veterinarian veterinarian /vet·er·i·nar·i·an/ (vet?er-i-nar´e-an) a person trained and authorized to practice veterinary medicine and surgery; a doctor of veterinary medicine.
n. and biologist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, at Woods Hole, Mass.; est. 1930. In addition to oceanographic research, it conducts important work in meteorology, biology, geology, and geophysics. (WHOI WHOI Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution ) in Massachusetts, arrives with his team of researchers. He eyeballs the whale remains and immediately picks up clues that the whale has been dead for a while.
When a living thing dies, it decomposes. Bacteria inside the organism eat away at the body, causing the carcass to decay over time. "During decomposition, the whale's external features gradually fall off," says Moore. Nearly all of this whale's glossy black epidermis, or outer skin, has peeled off. Also, "a freshly-dead right whale is about 10 feet in diameter," says Moore. This dead whale looks greatly deflated de·flate
v. de·flat·ed, de·flat·ing, de·flates
a. To release contained air or gas from.
b. To collapse by releasing contained air or gas.
A decaying whale is like a flattening tube of toothpaste, explains Moore. Just underneath the whale's skin is a thick layer of blubber. This spongy spongy /spon·gy/ (spun´je) of a spongelike appearance or texture.
Resembling a sponge in appearance, elasticity, or porosity. and oily material is very resistant to decomposition. But inside the whale is another story. During decomposition, the whale's muscles and viscera viscera /vis·ce·ra/ (vis´er-ah) plural of viscus.
1. The soft internal organs of the body, especially those contained within the abdominal and thoracic cavities. , or soft internal organs including the lungs and intestines, all slowly liquefy liquefy /liq·ue·fy/ (lik´wi-fi) to become or cause to become liquid. into a substance that is similar in consistency to toothpaste. But this soup of decayed flesh is a lot smellier than toothpaste, says Moore. This gunk gradually leaks out of the dead whale's mouth. By gauging the size of the deflated whale's body, Moore gets a sense of how much of the whale has decomposed de·com·pose
v. de·com·posed, de·com·pos·ing, de·com·pos·es
1. To separate into components or basic elements.
2. To cause to rot.
CSI CSI Crime Scene Investigator
CSI CompuServe, Inc.
CSI Commodity Systems, Inc.
CSI Commodity Systems Inc. (Boca Raton, FL)
CSI Crime Scene Investigation (CBS TV show)
CSI Christian Schools International EXAM
A whale necropsy is messy; whale blood and oil could splatter onto the examiner. So Moore's team puts on protective gear such as foul-weather pants. The researchers start the examination by studying the whale's external features and taking its measurements. They learn that the whale is a female and that it is 1,465 centimeters (48 feet, 1 inch) long. They also look at the whale's body for signs of trauma or diseases. Besides dent marks from the ropes used to tow the animal onshore and a couple of shark bites. Moore finds no clues that point to the whale's death. The only way to dig deeper into this case is to look inside the whale.
Using sharp knives, Moore and his team cut into the whale blubber. Bingo! Blubber is normally light pink in color. But a large section of blubber on one side of this whale is red. "That's a sign of bruising," says Moore.
A bruise usually forms when a blunt object hits a body. Moore explains: When a baseball hits you, you don't get cut because the blunt ball doesn't pierce your skin. But the impact of the hit causes the various blood vessels Blood vessels
Tubular channels for blood transport, of which there are three principal types: arteries, capillaries, and veins. Only the larger arteries and veins in the body bear distinct names. that feed into the tissues beneath your skin to burst. As red blood cells Red blood cells
Cells that carry hemoglobin (the molecule that transports oxygen) and help remove wastes from tissues throughout the body.
Mentioned in: Bone Marrow Transplantation
red blood cells spread into the tissues, a bruise forms. Similarly, a collision with a blunt object is likely to have caused the whale blubber to bruise.
September 5, 2006
A new day begins and Moore and his team are eager to learn what hit the whale and how it died. So they proceed to peel the blubber off the whale to see what additional clues hide beneath.
Moore finds that 75 percent of the whale's muscles remain, but that all of its viscera had already liquefied and leaked out of its body. "The animal had decomposed so much that its rib cage rib cage
The enclosing structure formed by the ribs and the bones to which they are attached. had somewhat collapsed," says Moore. Through previous studies, Moore knows that this state of decomposition is usually seen in whales that have been dead for approximately two weeks.
The team continues dissecting dis·sect
tr.v. dis·sect·ed, dis·sect·ing, dis·sects
1. To cut apart or separate (tissue), especially for anatomical study.
2. the whale and soon discovers a large number of broken bones. The researchers remove the whale's bones and set them on the beach. Then, piece by piece, the scientists use the bones to reconstruct the whale's skeleton. The completed structure gives Moore and his team a better idea of which parts of the whale skeleton are intact and which parts are broken. The finding: Many vertebrae Vertebrae
Bones in the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar regions of the body that make up the vertebral column. Vertebrae have a central foramen (hole), and their superposition makes up the vertebral canal that encloses the spinal cord. , or individual bones that make up the spine, were fractured near the whale's chest and lumbar (lower back) regions.
Although the whale's tissues are still being analyzed, Moore feels confident that he has gathered enough clues to draw a conclusion: A large, blunt object hit the whale hard on one side--the side that was bruised. That impact broke the animal's backbones. As a result, the nerves that send signals from the whale's brain down its spine were severed. Without brain signals to direct its tail and other body parts to move, the whale was probably paralyzed par·a·lyze
tr.v. par·a·lyzed, par·a·lyz·ing, par·a·lyz·es
1. To affect with paralysis; cause to be paralytic.
2. To make unable to move or act: paralyzed by fear. and couldn't swim. "It was also in a lot of pain and bled a lot," says Moore. "The whale probably died within a few hours of being hit."
Over the years, Moore has learned that most North Atlantic right whales die from getting hit by cargo ships or from becoming tangled in fishing nets. The whale in this case most likely died from a ship strike.
To protect these endangered whales, the U.S. and Canadian governments have long-standing laws that prohibit ships from coming within 500 yards of right whales. Still, many right whales die from shipping and fishing activities every year. Moore and other scientists hope that their findings about each right whale's cause of death will help the U.S. and Canadian governments find better ways to help save the species from extinction.
Why is this whale's coloring so odd-looking?
What information could be hiding inside the whale?
Which of these parts of the whale is strange in color
How did all of these whale bones break apart?
nuts & bolts
The North Atlantic right whale used to widely roam the Atlantic Ocean. When commercial whaling began approximately 1,000 years ago, the species' populations began to plummet. To protect the species, whaling of the North Atlantic right whale has been banned since 1935. Despite the decades of protection, "We haven't seen a substantial increase in the number of whales," says Michael Moore of WHOI.
Today, roughly 400 Eubalaena glacialis remain, living along the coast of North America. Scientists believe this population is not growing much because too few whales are being born and too many are dying from ship strikes or from getting caught in fishing nets. And the whales' migration route puts them right in the line of danger (see map, left).
In the warmer seasons, the whales feed on zooplankton zooplankton: see marine biology.
Small floating or weakly swimming animals that drift with water currents and, with phytoplankton, make up the planktonic food supply on which almost all oceanic organisms ultimately depend (see (small, drifting animals) in northern waters. In the cooler seasons, the whales swim to southern waters to calve calve
act of parturition by a cow or other mammal producing a calf as offspring. . This north-south migration route intersects with busy shipping traffic that transports trade goods between the U.S. and other countries. The whales' coastal route also coincides with prime commercial fishing areas.
THINK ABOUT IT: How might governments, scientists, and industries work together to save the endangered right whales?
Jump-start your lesson with these pre-reading questions:
* Adult North Atlantic right whales (Eubalaena glacialis) are between 14 and 17 meters (45 and 55 feet) in length and weigh roughly 6:3,500 kilograms (139,700 pounds). How might a dead right whale change in its body size and appearance over time?
* The North Atlantic right whale is named as such because early whalers Whalers may mean:
* One individual right whale, first identified in 1935, was spotted again in 1959, 1980, 1985, and 1992. The last sighting of this whale was in 1995. What unique physical features might a right whale have that would allow scientists to tell one right whale apart from another?
* In the article you learned that the commercial shipping and fishing industries kill many North Atlantic right whales each year. How might your consumer lifestyle be linked to driving these whales to extinction? How might governments, industries, consumers, and scientists work together to ensure that humans get the goods Verb 1. get the goods - discover some bad or hidden information about; "She got the goods on her co-worker after reading his e-mail"
get a line, get wind, get word, hear, learn, discover, find out, pick up, see - get to know or become aware of, usually they need and that right whales are protected at the same time?
HISTORY: Have students research the history of whaling The History of whaling is very extensive, stretching back for millennia. This article discusses the history of whaling up to the moratorium (1982). Prehistoric to medieval times
Humans have engaged in whaling since prehistoric times. in North America. Then have each student imagine his or her life as a whaler WHALER, mar. law. A vessel employed in the whale fishery.
2. It is usual for the owner of the vessel, the captain and crew, to divide the profits in just proportions, under an agreement similar to the contract Di Colonna. (q.v.) living in the 1600s or 1700s. Have each student write a journal entry--from the whaler's point of view--about life onboard an early whaling vessel. For research help, visit the New Bedford Whaling Museum's Web site: www.whalingmuseum.org/kendall/amwhale/am_index.html
* For more scientific and conservation information about the North Atlantic right whale, visit the North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium at: www.rightwhaleweb.org
* WHOI's Currents magazine has a special issue devoted to the North Atlantic right whale. You can read the issue online at: www.whoi.edu/institutes/oli/currenttopics/ct_rightwhales.htm
* To learn about the U.S. government's efforts to protect marine mammals marine mammals
mammals inhabiting the sea; generally taken to include the cetaceans (whales, porpoise, dolphin), the sirenians (sea-cows, including manatees and dugong) and the pinnipeds (the carnivores of the group, seals, sealions, walruses). , visit: www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr
A Whale of a Mystery
DIRECTIONS: Match the word in the left column with the correct phrase in the right column.
--1. necropsy a. lower back --2. epidermis b. soft internal organs --3. blubber c. medical exam for learning how an animal died --4. callosity d. small, drifting animals --5. viscera e. individual bones that make up the spine --6. vertebrae f. outer skin --7. lumbar g. thickened bumP of skin on a right whale's head --8. zooplankton h. spongy and oily material found in whales
1. c 2. f 3. h 4. g 5. b 6. e 7. a 8. d
In "A Whale of a Mystery" (p. 18), you learned that approximately 400 North Atlantic right whales remain in the world. So scientists take notice whenever they spot a right whale in the waters.
Below is a chart showing some of the sightings for a female right whale named Pediddle. Use the information in the chart to mark on the map below where and when she was sighted. Then use a colored pencil to connect the marks and draw a possible migration route for Pediddle during the year 2001. Use another colored pencil to draw a possible migration path for Pediddle between May 5, 2004, and May 4, 2005.
Sightings for Pediddle Year Date Sighting Area 2001 January 16 Georgia coast 2001 February 10 Florida coast 2001 June 1 Great South Channel 2003 May 15 Great South Channel 2003 June 29 Massachusetts Bay 2004 May 5 Great South Channel 2004 December 31 South Carolina Coast 2004 January 25 Florida coast 2005 February 12 Georgia coast 2005 May 4 Great South Channel For more about Pediddle, visit http://rwcatalog.neaq.org. Pediddle's ID number is 1012.
Use the information above to answer the following questions in complete sentences.
1. Where was Pediddle usually sighted during the month of May?
2. Compare the two migration routes that you drew for Pediddle. By studying the two paths, what can you infer about Pediddle's migration pattern?
1. Pediddle was usually sighted in the Great South Channel during May.
2. Pediddle usually spends the winter months (January and February) in southern waters, such as off the coast of Georgia and Florida. She usually spends the spring and summer months (May and June) in northern waters, such as the Great South Channel.