Seabirds’ Individual Personalities May Affect Conservation

Written by on February 6, 2014 in Marine Life

Daily Summary

Stranded Gray's beaked whale.

Stranded Gray’s beaked whale (2011). Photo credit: Avenue, CC BY-SA 3.0.

New species of deep-diving whale discovered
Researchers have identified a new species of beaked whale, Mesoplodon hotaula, based on a study of seven animals that stranded on remote tropical islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans over the last 50 years. Researchers studied all other known beaked whale species and used a combination of DNA analysis and physical characteristics to confirm that this species is distinct. Beaked whales are not the most well-studied animals and are rarely seen at sea because they live in deep ocean waters. Some species have never been seen alive and information has been gathered only from strandings.

Black-browed albatross.

Black-browed albatross. Photo credit: NOAA Corps.

Seabirds’ personalities determine feeding styles
Two recent studies suggest that seabirds have distinct individual personalities that affect their feeding behavior and survival. The first study shows that northern gannets “have individual feeding styles that are consistent over time.” They will fly to waters with the same characteristics, as if they specialize in hunting certain kinds of prey or in a particular ocean environment. The second study focused on individual black-browed albatrosses to determine if they were ‘bold or ‘shy’ and what the consequences of each might be. Bolder individuals are more competitive whereas shy ones are more likely to back down from confrontation. They found that being bold was good for females, but not for males. They also found that bold birds would feed close to shore near the colony where there was more competition, while the shy bird were more likely to fly farther offshore to rich, deep-water feeding grounds. These findings have implications for conservation because it suggests that some birds may be more likely to cross paths with fishing vessels or get caught on fishing lines than others.

Strange marine mammals of ancient North Pacific revealed
The pre-Ice Age oceans were home to a strange collection of creatures. By studying hundreds of fossil bones and teeth excavated from the Purisima Formation, a University of Otago Geology PhD student has put together a record of 21 marine mammal species ranging from dwarf baleen whales to double-tusked walruses. The 5 to 2.5 million year old fossils included a new species of whale closely related to minke, fin, and blue whales. Some of these strange creatures existed up until only one or two million years ago.

Copyright © 2014 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


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