Whale Q&A

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Un plongeur nage près d'une épave couverte d'algues

Is sinking a ship to create a reef dangerous for whales?

This question comes from residents of Godbout, a small village in Quebec’s Côte-Nord region. In this municipality, starting point of…

|Whale Q&A 27/3/2020
Rorqual bleu s'alimentant

How do we know how big a blue whale gulp is?

For researchers, studying the giants of the seas is no easy task! For example, how do they quantify how much…

|Whale Q&A 24/3/2020

Is it possible to collect dead whale skin in the St. Lawrence?

One reader sent us this video from Blue Planet Live in which researchers were collecting pieces of dead skin that…

|Whale Q&A 29/1/2020

Is it normal to see so many whales in winter?

In early January, GREMM (Group for Research and Education on Marine Mammals) received numerous calls from observers claiming to have…

|Whale Q&A 17/1/2020
Duo Bleues

What good are whales?

The impact of the global decline of cetaceans is not fully understood, as it has never been quantified. But the…

|Whale Q&A 18/11/2019

Why do some belugas have turned-up pectoral fins?

This question is from Marie-Hélène D’Arcy, beluga photo-ID technician at the Group for Research and Education on Marine Mammals (GREMM).…

|Whale Q&A 11/11/2019

What does a blue whale use its tongue for?

Blue whales have a huge tongue that weighs as much as an elephant. In addition to the sense of taste,…

|Whale Q&A 28/8/2019

Are there any whales that live in fresh water?

There are nearly 70 species of toothed whales and 13 species of baleen whales. Baleen whales use a highly specialized…

|Whale Q&A 12/8/2019

Do Planes and Helicopters Disturb Whales?

Whales are particularly sensitive to noise, whether human-made or natural. Noise can interfere with their communication and affect their behaviour.…

|Whale Q&A 24/7/2019
Deux dos de rorquals à bosse

Do humpback whales have friends?

Since arriving in the Marine Park area, Tic Tac Toe has been observed multiple times with another female nicknamed Snowball.…

|Whale Q&A 5/7/2019

How does echolocation work?

In water, light is scarce, but sounds travels quickly. In such an environment, toothed whales such as belugas, sperm whales…

|Whale Q&A 5/7/2019

Do whales suffer from sunburn?

Unlike other mammals, whales do not have hair to protect their skin. Even if they spend little time at the…

|Whale Q&A 15/5/2019

What is a laryngeal sac?

The laryngeal sac is a structure found in baleen whales, but also in many other mammals, including primates (but not…

|Whale Q&A 14/5/2019
Photo à la surface de l'eau d'une queue de cachalot en train de plonger

Are whales’ bones adapted to their diving?

Several species of whales have traits that are well suited to their diving behaviour. For example, the relatively small size…

|Whale Q&A 2/5/2019

A diver caught in a whale’s mouth?

While feeding at the surface, a Bryde's whale accidentally snatched up a diver, who found himself, from the waist up,…

|Whale Q&A 13/3/2019

How do they determine the age of whales?

Estimating the age of marine mammals is more complex than one might think. Few reliable techniques exist to determine the…

|Whale Q&A 6/2/2019

Do Whales Have Baby Teeth?

Humans have two generations of teeth: deciduous teeth (from the Latin “to fall”) – also called “baby teeth” – and…

|Whale Q&A 4/2/2019

Which whale species has the largest testicles?

North Atlantic right whales have the largest testicles in the animal kingdom. They can exceed 900 kg, which corresponds to…

|Whale Q&A 21/1/2019

How do calves manage to follow their mothers?

After birth, a calf remains with its mother at a minimum for the duration of nursing, which varies from a…

|Whale Q&A 15/1/2019

Why do cetaceans die?

Just like us, cetaceans (whales, porpoises, and dolphins) have a range of reasons that can lead to mortality. Because of…

|Whale Q&A 5/12/2018

Are there krill in the wintertime?

Yes, there are krill in the St. Lawrence in the wintertime. According to a recent study by Dr. Yvan Simard…

|Whale Q&A 29/10/2018

What do we know about harbour porpoises?

By Célia Barathier Harbour porpoises are the subject of very few studies in the St. Lawrence and are therefore much…

|Whale Q&A 16/10/2018

How do whales go on long dives? 

Whales are marine mammals that dive for various reasons, such as: feeding and mating. Their prey are found at varying…

|Whale Q&A 16/10/2018

What Do Whales Do at Night?

By Chloé Vérité A curtain closes, night takes over the sky and during its quiet advance the frantic pace of…

|Whale Q&A 15/10/2018

What Good is Whale Poo?

By Célia Baratier In summer, whales find themselves in the St. Lawrence to stock up on food. Krill and fish…

|Whale Q&A 13/9/2018

Whaling: Do whales hunted in the Nordic countries visit the St. Lawrence?

Are the cetaceans targeted by Icelandic or Norwegian whalers the same ones as those that visit us year after year?…

|Whale Q&A 4/9/2018

Do hybrids exist in cetaceans?

By Célia Baratier This year once again, the research team aboard the BpJAM saw the narwhal! He seems to have…

|Whale Q&A 29/8/2018

Why do seals come out of the water?

Seals and sea lions share an ancestor that was exclusively terrestrial. Their physiological evolution has left traces and they must…

|Whale Q&A 3/8/2018

Since whales and ungulates share a common ancestor, are the former able to ruminate?

Whales are carnivores that feed on small shrimp-like crustaceans. Yet their digestive systems do not resemble those of carnivorous mammals.…

|Whale Q&A 6/7/2018

Can Whales Be Deaf or Blind?

By Célia Baratier Sound travels much faster through water than through air. Whales have taken advantage of this phenomenon thanks…

|Whale Q&A 22/6/2018

Would it be possible to fit more whales with location transmitters in order to prevent collisions?

If ships knew exactly where the whales were, could we reduce the number of collisions? A number of you have…

|Whale Q&A 14/5/2018

How can a live stranded whale die of asphyxiation?

By François Vachon Ocean water exerts pressure that allows cetaceans to support their mass. Animals such as fin whales and…

|Whale Q&A 28/3/2018

Have Whales Ever Gotten Trapped by the Ice in the St. Lawrence Estuary?

By François Vachon To date, no such incident has ever been recorded within the boundaries of the St. Lawrence Estuary.…

|Whale Q&A 17/1/2018

Does social hierarchy exist in belugas?

By Stéphanie Tremblay Most of the time, belugas are observed in groups of multiple individuals; rarely are they seen alone.…

|Whale Q&A 18/12/2017

Do whales use tools?

By Stéphanie Tremblay This week, a video was swirling around several social media in which a male dolphin could be…

|Whale Q&A 28/11/2017

How do we measure the length of a whale?

By Stéphanie Tremblay When we see a whale from shore, or even from a boat, it looks quite small. Even…

|Whale Q&A 1/11/2017

Are the pilot whales of the St. Lawrence the same as those in the Caribbean?

By Stéphanie Tremblay The differences between certain species are sometimes so imperceptible that they may be mistaken for one another.…

|Whale Q&A 17/10/2017

At what age do female belugas stop having offspring?

By Stéphanie Tremblay Female belugas reach sexual maturity between the ages of 8 and 14 and can live between 60…

|Whale Q&A 4/10/2017

Do whales go into heat?

By Stéphanie Tremblay Anyone can recognize a cat in heat, but what about a whale? With the human eye, this…

|Whale Q&A 26/9/2017

Do whales drink salt water?

By Sonia Villalon Despite a few exceptions, pinnipeds and cetaceans do not usually drink. In most cases, water is supplied…

|Whale Q&A 19/9/2017

What is this beluga doing with this piece of wood?

By Maureen Jouglain In this video taken in the summer of 2016 off the land-based Pointe-Noire Interpretation and Observation Centre,…

|Whale Q&A 24/8/2017

Is Montréal’s and Québec City’s wastewater having an impact on whales?

By Maureen Jouglain The Montréal region alone produces 2/3 of the wastewater in Quebec. The province's second most densely populated…

|Whale Q&A 16/8/2017

Are sonars used to locate whales?

By Maureen Jouglain From the inflatable boat to the large ferry, every whale-watching boat is equipped with a radar and…

|Whale Q&A 27/7/2017

How can a beluga survive out of water?

By Maureen Jouglain The rescue operation of the beluga trapped in the Nepisiguit River, New Brunswick, raised the question: how…

|Whale Q&A 6/7/2017

What is the function of the callosities in right whales?

By Sonia Villalon The callosities in right whales are irregular patches of thickened and keratinized tissues. These tissues are habitat…

|Whale Q&A 29/6/2017

What was learned from the exceptional red tide of August 2008?

In an interview with Whales Online, phytoplankton ecology researcher Michel Starr from Fisheries and Oceans Canada answers the following question:…

|Whale Q&A 2/6/2017

What is a “water column”?

In a number of Whales Online articles, the term "water column" is used. What does this refer to? From the…

|Whale Q&A 18/5/2017

Where does the Estuary end and the Gulf begin? And what would make a species better adapted to the Gulf than to the Estuary?

When we speak of the St. Lawrence, we often hear the terms “Estuary” and “Gulf”. What do they mean? Where…

|Whale Q&A 6/4/2017

Can a whale be identified by its behaviour?

Many researchers identify whales using photo-identification, thus by their physical appearance. But can they identify individuals based on their behaviour?…

|Whale Q&A 31/3/2017

Why is plastic sometimes found in the stomachs of whales?

How is it that 30 plastic bags find their way into the stomach of a cetacean? The issue was raised…

|Whale Q&A 10/3/2017

Are humpback whales saving other species being hunted by killer whales?

Yes. For example, in 2012 in Monterey Bay, California, a BBC team filmed the intervention of two humpbacks to protect…

|Whale Q&A 13/2/2017

Which cetacean is most at risk of extinction?

According to the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), it would be the vaquita. This…

|Whale Q&A 3/2/2017

Why leap out of the water when one weighs over 30 tonnes?

Known as breaches in scientific jargon, these leaps out of the water that whales perform serve notably to communicate with…

|Whale Q&A 23/1/2017

How did baleen appear?

A recently discovered whale fossil has proven to be an important piece of the puzzle with regard to whale evolution.…

|Whale Q&A 11/1/2017

If Belugas and Narwhals Cohabit the Arctic, is it Possible That These Whales Once Swam Side by Side in The Champlain Sea?

Being that they frequent the same territory, narwhals do occasionally come into contact with belugas in the Arctic, without necessarily…

|Whale Q&A 21/12/2016

Are killer whales a threat to the marine mammal populations that they feed on?

Predation alone does not generally pose a threat to the sustainability of a population. It is often associated with other…

|Whale Q&A 7/12/2016

Do Sperm Whales have any Predators?… by Olivia Capeillere

Toothed whales are generally much smaller than baleen whales. However, the sperm whale is a toothed whale that can grow…

|Whale Q&A 20/7/2016

What purpose do fins serve in whales?

Whales generally have four fins: two pectoral fins (instead of arms), a caudal fin (also called the tail) and a…

|Whale Q&A 8/4/2016

What are Mass Strandings and What Causes Them?

A beached animal might be sick, exhausted, injured or disoriented. If it is a young individual, it may be due…

|Whale Q&A 17/8/2015

Whales and Dolphins in Aquariums: A Heated Debate

This sensitive topic has been subject of heated debate for decades. The opening of Marine Land Studio in Florida in…

|Whale Q&A 10/8/2015
De l'eau s'échappe de la bouche gonflée d'un petit rorqual

How Do the Ventral Grooves of Rorquals Function?

The word “rorqual” comes from the Norwegian rorkval, which means “tubed” or “furrow-bellied” whale. The name refers to the folds…

|Whale Q&A 6/8/2015

Which Cetacean Species are Extinct?

At the present time, there are very few extinct whales, although some – described later in this article – have…

|Whale Q&A 27/7/2015

How Does Digestion Take Place in Whales?

The digestive systems of whales consists of an esophagus, a compartmentalized stomach (similar to that of ruminants like cows or…

|Whale Q&A 15/7/2015

How Long have Sperm Whales been Hunted?

Are sperm whales still hunted? No, not commercially. Nevertheless, a traditional hunt is still practised by residents of the Indonesian…

|Whale Q&A 15/4/2015

Are the Belugas of the North Threatened?

In an interview with Véronique Lesage and Thomas Doniol-Valcroze, researchers at the Maurice Lamontagne Institute (Fisheries and Oceans Canada), Whales…

|Whale Q&A 23/2/2014