Friday, 29 January 2010

New Family Member Arrives!

The Dolphin Research Center Family is thrilled to announce the arrival of Pandora and A.J.'s calf!

The little sprite arrived early on this morning (Jan. 29, 2010) just before 1 a.m. Both mother and baby are doing great. Pandora is demonstrating calm, confident behavior. We've observed the baby nursing and strongly swimming. Even though this is her first calf, Pandora has had lots of babysitting experience and helped raise her younger sisters Calusa and Cayo. It sure looks like she's following in her mother Merina's flukeprints and will be a terrific mom.

Yesterday afternoon, Pandora began showing signs of labor with hunching and arching. We had observers at her lagoon from that point on to monitor her progress and they quickly put out the call when the baby arrived. As staff arrived to work this morning, a visit to the lagoons for a first look at the newest member of the family was everybody's priority!

The little one is a fourth-generation DRC dolphin following down the line of Great-Granddolphins Delphi and Bee. Congratulations to parents Pandora and A.J., grandparents Merina and Kibby and various other family members -- both delphinid and human.

As is the norm, it could be weeks before we are able to tell whether this is a boy or a girl and it will be even longer before he or she has a name. We'll make sure to keep you updated!

If you're in the Keys or planning a visit soon, come on in and see the new family member and all of the others in the pod!

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Scientist unravel the mystery of bat, dolphin echoes

London: Scientists have discovered an interesting similarity in the DNA of bats and dolphins that enable them to echolocate.

A basic gene that gives their ears the ability to detect high-frequency sound has undergone the exact same changes over time in both creatures.

According to BBC, researchers have reported their findings in the journal Current Biology.

It is perhaps for the first time that identical genetics has been shown to underpin the evolution of similar characteristics in very different organisms.

Nature is replete with cases where the path taken by evolution has resulted in the same traits, or phenotypes, developing independently in diverse animal groups.

Examples would include the tusks displayed by elephants and walruses, or the bioluminescence seen in fireflies and jellyfish.

"It's common on a morphological scale but it's assumed not to occur at a DNA level because there are so many different ways to arrive at the same solution," explained Dr Stephen Rossiter of Queen Mary's School of Biological and Chemical Sciences.

"The fact that we're able to link convergence of the DNA with a phenotype I think is unique, and in such a complex phenotype as hearing as well," he told BBC News.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Jet Makes a Splash

Jet's making a big splash
23rd January 2010

Jet may only be seven weeks old, but he has become a crowd favourite at the Pet Porpoise Pool.

NOT many seven-week-old babies can swim but Jet, the newest addition to the Pet Porpoise Pool family, is already powering along like an Olympian.

An alert and curious young dolphin, Jet has been stealing the limelight from his mum, Calamity, since his birth on December 3.

The youngster enjoys swimming past the viewing window and sneaking a peek at Pool visitors even though Calalmaity likes to position herself protectively between her baby and the window.

“At seven weeks of age, Jet is now more adventurous, exploring on his own when he can sneak away from mum just for a few moments,” said Greg Pickering, Senior Dolphin Curator at the Pet Porpoise Pool. “He’s starting to touch and play with the balls the trainers provide for the other dolphins.”

One of the intimate moments visitors can witness is Jet nursing from his mother through the viewing windows and observation ridge provided at the pool.


Sunday, 24 January 2010

Dolphin gives birth while performing

A 17-year-old dolphin named Hindri gave birth to her first calf while performing at the Suoi Tien Tourist Area in Ho Chi Minh City on January 23.

The tail of a baby dolphin can be seen coming out of its 17-year-old mother Hindri in an aquarium at Suoi Tien on January 23 (Photo: SGGP)
Jimmy Sukat, the dolphin’s Indonesian trainer, said Hindri was showing signs of fatigue and didn’t want to perform in the morning.

Around 3 pm, the tail of a baby dolphin was spotted coming out of Hindri and by 6 pm the calf was fully born, he said, adding that dolphins are usually pregnant for 13 months before giving birth.

As there are no veterinarians with dolphin expertise in Vietnam, the deputy director of Suoi Tien Tourist Area, Doan Minh Tuan, said he will invite experts from Indonesia to examine and care for Hindri and her baby.

Hindri is one of four performing dolphins imported from Indonesia to Suoi Tien. The animals began performing in January 2009.

The tourist area is situated 19km to the northeast of Ho Chi Minh City on the Hanoi Highway where visitors can enjoy natural landscapes including streams, woods and aquariums with hundreds of species of fish and rare animals.


Thursday, 7 January 2010

Killer whale was born at SeaWorld

It’s a whale! Takara, an 18-year-old, 5,080-pound killer whale, gave birth to a calf today in the main pool of SeaWorld San Antonio’s Shamu Theater. The calf arrived at approximately 7:15 a.m. after a short period of labor.

This is an exciting event for our team members and our guests, but the first days and weeks for a young killer whale are critical. SeaWorld’s Zoological Operations will be monitoring Takara and her calf round-the-clock, watching for nursing behavior, regular respirations and other positive vital signs.

We will keep you posted on the progress.


Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Mourning about dolphin "Paco"

Zoo: Mourning Delfin "Paco"
(Photo: WN)

Munster - "Paco" the oldest dolphin at the zoo died on Wednesday at the age of 40 years. According by the press the cause of death was cardiovascular disease due to old age.

"Paco" was lovely called "Grandpa" by his trainers, because 40 years for Paco was equivalent to 100 human years - that's a record for his species, who usually only live up to 30 years. Throughout the world the Tucuxi dolphin has been the only one of his kind outside of South America, where these species can be observed rarely.

The Tucuxi dolphins are seriously threatened by extinction. Since 1992 the dolphinarium in Munster has been coorperating with the society "Yaqu Pacha eV" for the protection of marine mammals and their habitats in South America.


Translated by Takulover.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

New Calf: J47

Photo by Jeff Hogan.
January 3, 2010 - J47 was first seen and photographed with J35 near Vashon Island, Puget Sound. Note the fetal folds on the calf's head.

Two killer whale types found in UK waters

Two killer whale types found in UK waters
By Jody Bourton
Earth News reporter

Forming a new species? The 'type 2' dolphin hunting killer whales.

Scientists have revealed that there is not one but two types of killer whale living in UK waters.
Each differs in its appearance and diet, with males of one type being almost two metres longer than the other.
The killer whales could be at an early stage of becoming two separate species, the researchers say.
The international group of scientists has published its results in the journal Molecular Ecology.
"It's exciting to think about two very different types of killer whale in the waters around Britain," says Dr Andy Foote from the University of Aberdeen, UK, who undertook the study.

This divergence may eventually lead to the two types becoming different species
Dr Andy Foote
University of Aberdeen
"Killer whales aren't really a species that we think of as being a regular visitor to Britain, but in fact we have two forms of these killer whales in our waters," he told the BBC.
Scientists have found different forms of killer whale that occupy particular niches in the Pacific and the Antarctic, but this is the first time that they have been described in the North Atlantic.
Dr Andy Foote undertook the study along with colleagues from universities and museums in Denmark and the UK.
Killer whales (Orcinus orca), otherwise called orcas, live in family groups called pods.
As the largest member of the dolphin family, killer whales are known for their intelligence and range of hunting behaviours.
Tooth work
There was very little prior to this study to suggest that different types of killer whale would be found in the North Atlantic.
However, Dr Foote and colleagues studied teeth from remains of killer whales stranded over the past 200 years and found a difference in tooth wear.

Differences in tooth wear: Type 1 (top) and type 2 (below)
"We found that one form, which we call 'type 1' had severely worn teeth in all adult specimens," explains Dr Foote.
"The other form, 'type 2', had virtually no tooth wear even in the largest adults."
In the wild, killer whales that "suck up" herring and mackerel display this tooth wear.
Knowing this, the researchers suspected a difference in diet and ecological niche between the two groups.
Dolphin predator
Using stable isotope analysis that gives clues to the orcas' diet, the scientists found that type 1 is a generalist feeder, consuming fish and seals.

It's similar to how Darwin's finches have adapted to different ecological roles in the Galapagos but on a larger scale
Dr Andy Foote
University of Aberdeen
Type 2, on the other hand, is a specialist feeder that scientists suspect exclusively feeds on marine mammals such as small dolphins and whales.
This specialisation for alternate ecological niches has also resulted in a difference in shape and appearance.
"The two types also differed in length, with type 2 adult males being almost two metres larger than types 1 males," Dr Foote says.
The researchers also found that colour, pattern and number of teeth vary between the groups.
Dr Foote says the fish feeding type 1 killer whales are found across the North East Atlantic and around Britain.
The cetacean hunting type 2 killer whales are regularly seen off the west coast of Scotland and Ireland.
New species
Genetic analysis indicates the two types belong to two different populations.
"Type 1 specimens were from closely related populations, but the type 2 whales were more closely related to a group of Antarctic killer whales," Dr Foote explains.
Comparing the findings with studies on killer whales around the world shows that killer whales have radiated to fill different ecological niches.
"It's similar to how Darwin's finches have adapted to different ecological roles in the Galapagos, but on a larger scale," Dr Foote notes.
He suggests this could be an important discovery for the future of the animals.
"They seem to have occupied completely different ecological niches and have started to diverge morphologically. This divergence may eventually lead to the two types becoming different species."
He also recommends the two types be considered "evolutionary significant units" and monitored separately in order to more effectively conserve one of the oceans most charismatic animals.

Captain Sully Moves

Pilot Whale “Captain Sully” transported to new
homeThe Pilot Whale known as “Captain Sully” was
transported early Monday morning to his new home at Sea World, San
Diego, California. This concluded an epic rehabilitation effort
spanning nearly six months on the island of Curacao. Sully was placed
in a stretcher by his handlers, and hoisted aloft from his pool at Jan
Thiel Bay by a crane. He was then lowered into a customized transport
carrier, containing water and foam padding, on the back of a flat-bed
truck. From Jan Thiel, he was driven to Hato Airport, where his
container was loaded into a FED-EX Airbus A-300. He is expected to
arrive at Sea World by early evening Monday.Accompanying Sully on his
journey is George Kieffer, president of the Southern Caribbean Cetacean
Network (SCCN) and the whale’s principle handler on Curacao.
Kieffer will spend the next week with Sea World handlers, trainers, and
veterinarians in the hope of ensuring a comfortable transition for the
young animal. Under the supervision of SCCN; with the support and
cooperation of the Curacao Sea Aquarium, Dolphin Academy, and Curacao
Dolphin Therapy Center; with the dedication of dozens of volunteer
care-givers; and with the generous hospitality of Zanzibar Beach and
Restaurant, and Scuba Do Dive Center . . . the pilot whale survived a
beach stranding, regained his health, experienced two release-to-wild
attempts, and now heads toward a future with two female pilot whales
under permanent human care.The decision to move Sully was not taken
lightly. SCCN weighed all available options before choosing his
destination.Since Sully’s stranding on July 14th, the early
goal of his team was to improve his health and fitness in order to
return him to the wild. An attempt at release on September 1st showed
that Sully had no intention of being left alone as he chased the SCCN
boat back to Jan Thiel from a distance of over 13 km at over 40 km/h.
On November 5th, Sully was led to a wild pod of his own species.
Although he was among the pod for over an hour, Sully failed to follow
after the group after sunset, and again returned to the bay with his
handlers. That trip logged over 70km spanning eight-and-a-half
hours.That event left the SCCN with one of four future options for
Sully. Two of those options – euthanasia or abandonment alone
at sea – were never considered. The other two options would
place Sully in human care either at the Curacao Sea Aquarium or another
zoological setting already holding pilot whales. The Sea Aquarium is
designed for human interaction with bottlenose dolphins and provides
little extra space to house a growing pilot whale. Sea World, San Diego
houses pilot whales and is world renowned for their quality of animal
care. Thus the SCCN sought permission from both the U.S. and
Netherlands Antilles authorities for a permit to move Sully.

Friday, 1 January 2010

Beluga Stadium Gets a Face Lift

December 28, 2009 by ChuckCureau
Posted in Around the Park
VIVA refresh 2

Okay, so I'm not really doing the actual painting... but it shows how huge the pool is!

I’ve been in this pool a million times before, but this time, it’s different. Maybe it’s because nearly one million gallons of water are missing! In my 21 years at the stadium only a handful of times has it been empty of water. Seems at lot bigger from this vantage point.

In preparation for a spectacular new show in 2010, Beluga Stadium is getting an overhaul. We are applying a refresh coat of paint and making some minor repairs. In addition to the paint job we have refreshed the back wall and will install new scenery. After all, it’s been 10 years since the premiere of VIVA! and it’s about time for a face lift. And we have a good one planned for our guests!

Aside from the physical changes to the stadium, we are currently in the creative stage of producing a new show. It has been fun listening to newly composed music and brainstorming the choreography of the beluga whales and Pacific white-sided dolphins. There’s a lot to think about. Behaviors are timed down to the second with the music. Logistics of animals and people must be thought out so that the show flows. The bulk of the work has yet to be done. Once the pool is again full of water, we can start rehearsing. We plan to use the month of January to concentrate on rehearsing with the animals and then in February our human acrobats (including the return of the ever-popular “Chad, the funny guy”) will be added to the rehearsals. I’m looking forward to seeing what evolves.

ViVA refresh 1

No VIVA! shows this holiday but be sure to check out the holiday themed shows "Shamu's Christmas Miracles" and "Deck the Halls with Clyde and Seamore."

Ancient whale sucked mud for food
 Artist's impression of Mammalodon (Carl Buell)
Mammalodon probably lived by sucking small animals up from the seafloor

An ancient "dwarf" whale appears to have fed by sucking small animals out of the seafloor mud with its short snout and tongue, experts say.

Researchers say the 25 million-year-old fossil is related to today's blue whales - the largest animals on Earth.

The ancient animal's mud slurping may have been a precursor to the filter feeding seen in modern baleen whales.

These whales strain huge quantities of tiny marine animals through specialised "combs" which take the place of teeth.

The research is published in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society.

The fossilised remains of the primitive baleen whale Mammalodon colliveri were discovered near Torquay, in Victoria, Australia.

Clearly the seas off southern Australia were a cradle for the evolution of a variety of tiny, weird whales that seem to have lived nowhere else
Dr Erich Fitzgerald, Museum Victoria

This animal still had teeth; it had not yet evolved the baleen plates - used for filter-feeding - which characterise present-day baleen whales.

Although Mammalodon was discovered in 1932 and named in 1939, it has not been widely studied, according to Museum Victoria, which holds specimens of this group.

The study's author, Dr Erich Fitzgerald from Museum Victoria, said that his study of the fossil led him to the conclusion thatMammalodon was a bottom-feeding mud-sucker.

Splinter group

The idea would support Charles Darwin's observation about whale evolution in his seminal book On the Origin of Species.

In it, Darwin speculated that some of the earliest baleen whales may have been suction feeders - and that this served as a precursor to the filter feeding of today's giants of the deep.

Oblique view of Mammalodon skull
Mammalodon probably evolved from much bigger ancestors

Mammalodon had a total body length of about 3m. But it appears to have been a bizarre evolutionary "splinter group" from the evolutionary lineage which later led to the 30m-long blue whale.

It was effectively a dwarf whale; the research suggests thatMammalodon may have evolved into a relatively tiny form from larger ancestors.

Mammalodon belongs to the same family as Janjucetus hunderi, fossils of which were also found in 25 million-year-old Oligocene rocks near Torquay in Victoria. This family appears to be unique to south-east Australia.

"Clearly the seas off southern Australia were a cradle for the evolution of a variety of tiny, weird whales that seem to have lived nowhere else," said Dr Fitzgerald.

The baleen plates which allow today's baleen whales to filter their food from water, distinguish this group from the toothed whales - a group which includes beaked whales and dolphins.

Baleen whales are a taxonomical group which includes not only the majestic blue whale, but also the right whales, fin whales and humpbacks, to name but a few.

Artist's impression of Mammalodon (Carl Buell)

Evolutionary throwback dolphin ready for kids of her own

Haruka the bottlenose dolphin in her tank at the Taiji Whale Museum in Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture. Unusual ventral fins can be seen on her underside about two-thirds down the length of her body. (Photo courtesy of Taiji Whale Museum)
Haruka the bottlenose dolphin in her tank at the Taiji Whale Museum in Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture. Unusual ventral fins can be seen on her underside about two-thirds down the length of her body. (Photo courtesy of Taiji Whale Museum)

Posted Dec 13 2009:

TAIJI, Wakayama -- Haruka, a young bottlenose dolphin being raised at a whale museum and said to be an evolutionary throwback, is ready to have little ones of her own.

The Taiji Whale Museum in Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture, is looking at coupling Haruka with a male dolphin in the spring, giving researchers an opportunity to study dolphin evolution if Haruka conceives.

Haruka has an unusual feature that makes her of particular interest to researchers: a pair of small ventral fins located close to the dolphin's genitals. They are thought to be evolutionary remnants of hind legs, used when the bottlenose dolphins' ancestors walked on land but made superfluous when the species returned to the water, making Haruka "the dolphin that returned to her ancestral roots."

"If she succeeds in mating, we can obtain detailed genetic data on the ventral fins," says Katsuki Hayashi, director of the museum.

Haruka, who was captured in the bay by local fishermen in October 2006, is now thought to be 12 years old. She is 2.92 meters long and weighs 269 kilograms. According to the museum, she ovulated for the first time in June, and then again in September and October, and has elevated levels of progesterone -- a hormone involved in the female reproductive system.

Researchers and the museum teamed up in 2008 to create the "Haruka Research Project Steering Committee," which decided at a meeting at the Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology earlier this month that it was possible for the dolphin to reproduce. The committee established a number of research teams to study such areas as heredity, behavior and reproduction, and hopes Haruka will give them a good look at cetacean development.

Possible bridegrooms for Haruka will be narrowed down from a list of candidates being raised at the museum. Once the selection process is complete, the female dolphins currently sharing a tank with Haruka will be moved and a winning candidate introduced, hopefully resulting in a coupling and, eventually, a birth.