Whale Q&A

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What do St. Lawrence belugas eat?

It may seem surprising, but up until a few months ago, the diet of the St. Lawrence beluga was not…

|News, Whale Q&A 1/9/2020

Are whales diurnal or nocturnal?

Within the animal kingdom, most species adjust their periods of sleep and activity according to a repeated 24-hour cycle called…

|Whale Q&A 22/7/2020

How do whales go months without eating?

When fall returns, the humpbacks of the St. Lawrence head to the Caribbean for the winter. In the space of…

|Whale Q&A 14/7/2020

Can we rid whales of their pollution?

Pollution can accumulate in whales' bodies and cause them serious health problems. “Can we flush this pollution out of a…

|Whale Q&A 18/6/2020

My dream is to swim with dolphins or whales. What would be the impact of such an activity?

In many places around the globe, ecotourism organizations offer the opportunity to swim with marine mammals. Whether we’re talking about…

|Whale Q&A 3/6/2020

Do different killer whale ecotypes communicate in the same way?

Following our article on the various killer whale ecotypes, one reader asked whether killer whales of different ecotypes are able…

|Whale Q&A 26/5/2020

Are there actually several species of killer whales?

Certainly you know that there are several species of whales and many species of dolphins. But did you know that…

|Whale Q&A 6/5/2020

Can whales suffocate?

After a week of severe weather in September 2019, a naturalist from the whale-watching outfitter Croisières Escoumins wondered whether whales…

|Whale Q&A 29/4/2020

Are whales affected by COVID-19?

This question comes to us via our Whales Online Facebook page: Could the current COVID-19 pandemic affecting humans around the globe…

|Whale Q&A 14/4/2020
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

I seem to think I saw a killer whale in Tadoussac this summer; is this possible?

It's not impossible, but there were no confirmed sightings in the Gulf of St. Lawrence this season. Perhaps it was…

|Whale Q&A 8/11/2016

What makes the St. Lawrence so productive?

The St. Lawrence River is known for its rich waters and high production of phytoplankton, the basis of the food…

|Whale Q&A 24/10/2016

How is climate change affecting whales?

By Olivia Capeillere Several studies support the hypothesis that climate change will have negative impacts on whales. Three main impacts…

|Whale Q&A 20/9/2016

Do humpbacks form clans?

Associations between individuals of the same species are well documented in toothed whales. Indeed, the formation of social "clans" has…

|Whale Q&A 13/8/2016

Can whales survive in fresh water?

Cetaceans are marine mammals, which are adapted to living in the salt waters of the various seas and oceans of…

|Whale Q&A 30/7/2016

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 kind of whaling was practised in the St. Lawrence?

Well before the arrival of the first Europeans, the Iroquois practised traditional whaling in the St. Lawrence River. Archaeological studies…

|Whale Q&A 9/7/2016

Are Atlantic Gray Whales Really Extinct

Today only two populations of gray whales are found in the North Pacific Ocean. The North Atlantic population was extirpated…

|Whale Q&A 30/6/2016

Does Watching Belugas from a Kayak Disturb Them?

There is a common misconception that a kayak has no effect on belugas and other whales because it is a…

|Whale Q&A 18/6/2016

What makes whales breach?

In an interview with Hal Whitehead, researcher at Dalhousie University, Canada, Whales Online asked him the following question: What makes…

|Whale Q&A 7/6/2016

When is the Best Time to Observe Whales in the St. Lawrence?

This is a very difficult question to answer! The "best time" to see cetaceans in the Estuary and Gulf of St.…

|Whale Q&A 19/4/2016

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

How do Boats Avoid Whales?

Collisions between ships and cetaceans are rather frequent and are a recognized cause of cetacean mortality in the world, despite…

|Whale Q&A 1/4/2016

How can whales sleep in the water without drowning?

Like humans, whales are mammals. They therefore have lungs and breath air at the surface. They are unable to extract…

|Whale Q&A 8/3/2016

Why are whales important? Why should we protect them?

The Whales Online team asked these questions to researchers who dedicate their time and energy studying the whales of the…

|Whale Q&A 29/2/2016

Are the Great Whales Capable of Crossing the Entire Ocean?

With their imposing size, baleen whales live on an entirely different scale. Their habitat ranges between warm waters where they…

|Whale Q&A 5/2/2016

Do Whales have Language?

Strictly speaking, a language implies syntax in which word order determines meaning. Studies conducted on dolphins in captivity have shown…

|Whale Q&A 21/1/2016

Do blue whales have any predators?

Measuring some twenty metres long and weighing around 100 tonnes, what predator "dares" to attack the largest animal on the…

|Whale Q&A 12/1/2016

Can whales be observed in the Caribbean?

Whale watching in the Caribbean is an increasingly popular activity. These warm waters are well known for large gatherings of…

|Whale Q&A 16/12/2015

Do whales use vocal cords to produce sound?

The structures responsible for sound production differ between toothed whales and baleen whales, but exactly how they work remains poorly…

|Whale Q&A 20/11/2015

At What Age do Belugas Begin to Feed on Fish?

A beluga mother typically nurses her offspring for 18 months. At that point, the calf's teeth are very small or…

|Whale Q&A 8/11/2015

What Attracts Grey Seals to the Estuary?

Recently they have been observed gathered in groups of over 50 individuals, hunting in the tide rips. In the fall,…

|Whale Q&A 27/10/2015

Baleen Whales Possess a Unique Intestinal Microbial Flora

Their intestinal flora has characteristics of that of both carnivorous mammals and ruminants. Bacteria similar to those that can degrade…

|Whale Q&A 26/10/2015

How Far Away Can Sperm Whales Detect Their Prey?

In order to be able to feed in waters over 1,500 m deep where light is absent, the sperm whale…

|Whale Q&A 14/10/2015

How Far Back Does the Presence of Belugas in the St. Lawrence Go?

Some of the first records of belugas in the St. Lawrence River can be found in Jacques Cartier's travel logs…

|Whale Q&A 4/10/2015

How Can Microscopic Algae Kill a 45-tonne Whale?

[caption id="attachment_14093" align="alignright" width="150"] © Pêches et Océans Canada M Starr[/caption] First and foremost, the many species of phytoplankton are…

|Whale Q&A 27/9/2015

What do Minke Whales do in the estuary of St. Lawrence?

The minke whale is a fast and agile predator, but as with any marine mammal, it must come to the…

|Whale Q&A 15/9/2015

Can whales experience the bends like divers do?

The bends are a type of decompression sickness associated primarily with divers using a compressed air tank. As the regulator…

|Whale Q&A 9/9/2015

Do Tides Have an Influence on Whales?

Tides – generally two high and two low per day – generate and influence ocean currents. In turn, these currents…

|Whale Q&A 31/8/2015

Which Cultures Still Practise Traditional Whaling?

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) authorizes and regulates so-called aboriginal "subsistence" whaling. It is practised today in Greenland (Denmark), Siberia…

|Whale Q&A 24/8/2015

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