On June 20, a whale that researchers had named Punctuation was found dead in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, a busy international shipping channel. Punctuation — so named for her comma-shaped scars — was a North Atlantic right whale, a species severely threatened by human activity. With only 420 left in the world, it is one of the most endangered whale species. Any additional death, especially of a reproductive female, puts the species further in jeopardy.
News of this death was particularly difficult for Syracuse University biology Professor Susan Parks, who had studied and written about Punctuation in a paper exploring acoustic communication among North Atlantic right whales.
This study was recently published in Biology Letters by Parks, along with Dana Cusano, also of Syracuse; Sofie Van Parijs, Ph.D., of the NOAA Fisheries, Northeast Fisheries Center; and Professor Douglas Nowacek of Duke University. It sheds new light on behaviour between mother and calf North Atlantic right whales.
Parks has studied North Atlantic right whale behaviour and acoustic communication since 1998. She leads the Bioacoustics and Behavioural Ecology Lab at Syracuse University, whose researchers study the sounds animals make, including those of right whales. MORE
Header image: Wiki Commons.