Monday, August 20, 2012

Day 11: "Those are peps!"

Two of the melon-headed whales we were with yesterday
(Photo: T. A. Mooney, NMFS permit # 15530 to CRC)
The wind had calmed down and so we headed north. Early into our steam we encountered, for the first time of the trip, one of our study animals, the melon-headed whale (Peponocephala electra), or "peps". Typical group sizes for these animals in Hawaii are 100-200 individuals, but we only found a few, spread out animals. Things got complicated when, in following the peps, pilot whales and rough-toothed dolphins (Steno bredanensis) started popping up everywhere. But we eventually found the peps and followed them away from the mix. Associations between these three species are not uncommon, but make following a focal species difficult. We stayed with the peps for nearly 5 hours, but it turned out to be an uncooperative group, and we couldn't get close enough in the boat to put a tag on. Instead, we got some good towfish recordings of clicks and whistles. Today we head north again. Now that we've found our study animal, it's time to get some tags on (and then get the tags back).

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