A new study reported in the journal Current Biology on February 24 offers some of the first evidence that grey whales might depend on a magnetic sense to find their way through the ocean. This evidence comes from the discovery that whales are more likely to strand on days when there are more sunspots.
Sunspots are of interest because they are also linked to solar storms — sudden releases of high-energy particles from the sun that have the potential to disrupt magnetic orientation behaviuor when they interact with Earth’s magnetosphere. But what’s unique about the new study, according to the researchers, is that they were able to explore how a solar storm might cause whales to strand themselves.
“Is it that the solar storms are pushing the magnetic field around and giving the whales incorrect information — for example, the whale thinks it is on 4th Street, but it is actually on 8th?” asks Jesse Granger of Duke University. “Or is it that the solar storms are messing up the receptor itself — the whale thinks it is on 4th Street, but has just gone blind?
“We show that the mechanism behind the relationship between solar storms and grey whales, if it is an effect on a magnetic sensor, is likely caused by disruption to the sense itself, not inaccurate information. So, to put this back into the earlier metaphor, the big secondary finding of this paper is that it is possible that the reason the whales are stranding so much more often when there are solar storms is because they have gone blind, rather than that their internal GPS is giving them false information.”
Granger says her interest in long-distance migrations stems in part from her own personal tendency to get lost, even on her way to the grocery store. She wanted to explore how some animals use magnetoreception to navigate by looking at incidents when navigation went terribly wrong.
“I hypothesized that by looking at patterns in the spacing and timing of incidents where an animal was unable to navigate properly, we could better understand the sense as a whole,” Granger says.
She and her colleagues studied 186 live stranding of the grey whale (Eschrichtius robustus). The data showed those stranding occurred significantly more often on days with high sunspot counts than on randomly chosen days. On days with a high sunspot count, the chance of a stranding more than doubled.
Further study showed that stranding happened more often on days with a high solar radio flux index, as measured from Earth, than on randomly chosen days. On days with high RF noise, the likelihood of stranding was more than four times greater than on randomly selected days.
Much to Granger’s surprise, they found no significant increase in stranding on days with large deviations in the magnetic field. Altogether, the findings suggest that the increased incidence of stranding on days with more sunspots is explained by a disruption of whales’ magnetoreceptive sensor, rather than distortion of the geomagnetic field itself.
“I really thought that the cause of the stranding was going to be inaccurate information,” Granger said. “When those results came up negative, I was flummoxed. It wasn’t until one of my co-authors mentioned that solar storms also produce high amounts of radio-frequency noise, and I remembered that radio-frequency noise can disrupt magnetic orientation, that things finally started to click together.”
Granger says it’s important to keep in mind that this isn’t the only cause of stranding. There are still many other things that could cause a whale to strand, such as mid-frequency naval sonar.
Granger now plans to conduct a similar analysis for several other species of whales on several other continents to see if this pattern exists on a more global scale. She also hopes to see what sort of information this broader picture of stranding can offer for our understanding of whales’ magnetic sense.
They create and modify dolphin behaviour in stages by teaching them to associate signals with the desired behaviour. With experience, trainers can assist vets when basic procedures need to be performed to promote and maintain the dolphin’s health.
What courses are available?
Until now, the only way you could gain any practical knowledge, was to attend a short course which lasted between three to ten days, at a dolphin facility. The average cost of these courses is around $1,500 plus your travel costs. These courses are, in my view, too short to gain any meaningful understanding of training techniques and only basic signals are taught. They do provide an opportunity to handle a dolphin, but you can experience this at a fraction of the price in a trainer for a day experience. These courses will not teach you all you need to know and certainly they will not enable you to train behaviours from scratch and being able to understand Operant Conditioning properly.
What does the Via Dolphin course offer?
Firstly, let me just get one thing clear, if you are looking for a course that will result in a certification or qualification that would enable you to work with dolphins, I am afraid they do not exist. Our course does provide a certificate but it is not accredited in any way, since there is no such accreditation for dolphin training.
One of the reasons why I created the course was following my years of training people to become dolphin trainers, I realised that there was no course available that would teach you all the most relevant information, to enable someone to gain knowledge as a dolphin trainer. Most employers either want trainers with some experience or they accept that beginners will not have any knowledge and they train them themselves, however they will not pass on all the required knowledge because they want to keep ahead and fear someone gaining more knowledge than them, would be a threat to them.
I realise you may be concerned, that you will not be able to simply show an employer a certificate and get a job, but the knowledge you will learn with this course, will enable you to progress faster and further once you are in a job and impress potential employers that you have completed a course that then familiarises you with vital knowledge, such as training techniques and tips which you can use from day one. Even if you have a degree in marine biology, this will not give you any real advantage as a dolphin trainer, so my course is the only method of gaining vital knowledge, tips and advice about training dolphins.
My course gives you countless tips and advice from all my years of training trainers and dolphins alike, plus what no-one wants to teach you, Operant Conditioning, which is the most successful technique in training of any sort. With step by step guides and real-life problem-solving training techniques, the course will give you what no other course or guide can offer you.
What if I am still unsure?
In my view, you should ask these questions;
How extensive is the course content, what will I know at the end of it?
What level of experience does the course provider have?
Will I forget what I have learnt or will I have the information to refer to always?
Does the course teach me from scratch to train multiple behaviours?
Is it value for money?
There are many companies out there offering the alternative courses to mine, but in my view, most have the same problems in common. They only last a few days and no-one can learn to become a trainer so quickly. Despite the high cost, they cannot teach you step by step, how to train multiple behaviours in a week or so. You need months of practice and during such time, being able to refer to the training course material, including helpful tips, will be essential. In my experience, all the Dolphin Trainers I have known do not want to teach you all they know, simply because they fear the completion and want to retain their position. I have no such fear, my only wish is that whilst I earn a little money from passing on my knowledge, Dolphin Trainers will be successful and dolphins will be treated better. To me everyone wins, I pass on my knowledge, you reach your full potential and fulfil your dreams of becoming a good Dolphin Trainer and the dolphin benefit from being trained positively, with love, care and attention.
What are the different stages of a Dolphin Trainers’ career?
To begin your career, you will usually start as an Assistant Trainer, assisting the Senior Trainers in all their activities. You will learn to give the most basic signals and also learn how to present different types of behaviours. You will also learn how to prepare the dolphins diet and undertake some basic tasks, within the dolphin area.
Mid-level trainers or Senior Trainers, supervise the Assistant Trainers and whilst they present and perform the programs, they may not have advanced knowledge or be able to cope with complex behavioural problems.
Supervisor Trainers are advanced trainers with extensive knowledge of training techniques and they are capable of training other trainers. They will usually have to oversee the various programs in the dolphin area and will have advanced knowledge of how to avoid and fix complex behavioural problems.
How can I reach my full potential?
There are not many trainers out there who know how to train a dolphin from scratch. Most of them know how to present a show and how to do an interactive program, by just learning the signals. To learn to train a dolphin from scratch takes many years of experience, but those who know, don’t give their secrets away.
You must plan the path ahead and set out your desired end goal; then you must know the steps or keys achievements, necessary along that path.
If your gaol is to become a great Dolphin Trainer then here is my suggestion to achieving that goal;
How can Via Dolphin help me reach the top?
I have explained why my course is different and the only course that offers step by step instructions, teaching you how to train a dolphin form scratch and many other behaviours. It also explains in detail what no other course does, Operant Conditioning. You will learn all the knowledge a trainer needs for behaviour training and its techniques. You will also learn the basics of husbandry behaviours, basic behaviour troubleshooting, how to handle a dolphin in any kind of environment and situation, manoeuvres, transportation and all aspects of animal care. Lastly it provides so many tips and secrets that no other trainer will tell you, in a format that you can keep forever, that it is without question, excellent value for money.
Is there a support community I can be part of whilst I learn?
I wanted to offer something different, something nobody else offers, a complete trainer’s knowledge guide, a community and an environment where you can develop as great trainer. I have created forums with my Facebook pages and groups, which will provide support where you will be able to learn more about dolphins. You will be able to interact with over 2,000 trainers worldwide, where you can ask any question you may have.
Via Dolphin group This is our dolphin community, which offers an interactive trainers forum of animal lovers’ trainers news and fun!
Mentoring for trainer’s page Here you can access scientific research and training videos, which will help you, improving your training techniques.
Learn how to train your dolphin group (Educational group) This is a private group where you can find information about dolphins and sea lions training, educational material and infomercials as well as videos.
If you really are interested and want to go further, to pursue your dream job all the way and you want to develop as a trainer, we will give you an amazing start…
So, if you are wondering how to start, here I offer to you a map that will help you design your path.
Many of our members ask why whaling is still permitted and why they do it?
Here I share some information with you, so you have an idea why!!
Sperm whaling is the hunting of these marine mammals for the oil, meat and bone that can be extracted from their bodies. Sperm whales, a large and deep-diving species, produce a waxy substance that was especially useful during the Industrial Revolution, and so they were targeted in 19th-century whaling, as exemplified in Moby Dick. Sperm oil is no longer needed, but another unusual product, ambergris, is still valued as a perfume fixative. Although the animal is classified as a vulnerable species, aboriginal whaling in limited numbers is still permitted, notably from two villages in Indonesia, for subsistence.
Sperm whales were hunted in the 19th century by American, British and other national whaling fleets. As with all the species targeted, the thick layer of fat (blubber) was flensed (removed from the carcass) and rendered, either on the whaling ship itself, or at a shore station. This was the whale oil, stored in casks for the long journey home. It was sold as a lamp fuel, not a food product; the whale meat was discarded. The other species that were within reach during the Age of Sail were filter-feeders, and their baleen had many commercial uses. The sperm whale, being a toothed hunter, lacked this so-called whalebone, but it did produce a valuable commodity: sperm oil.
Each whale’s head held up to a ton, in a cavity called the “case”. It was part of a waxy liquid called spermaceti, from which the whale got its common name. The liquid was removed from the spermaceti organ at sea, and stored separately from the rendered whale oil for processing back in port. On return home, this headmaster, which was worth around 20% more than the oil from the blubber, was divided into two valuable commodities. One was a very pure type of sperm whale oil that required little or no additional processing. It was found particularly suitable as a lubricant for fine machinery, such as pocket watches. What remained after the oil was extracted was a waxy substance that could be made into spermaceti candles. These burned longer and brighter than tallow candles and left no smell and, as a result, sold at a higher price. Although spermaceti by-products were high-value, they made up only a small proportion, perhaps 10%, of the substances extracted from sperm whales.
This product had a variety of commercial applications. In addition to the manufacture of candles, spermaceti was used in soap, cosmetics, machine oil, other specialized lubricants, lamp oil, paint, putty, pencils, crayons, leather waterproofing, rust-proofing materials and many pharmaceutical compounds.
Two other products of the sperm whale are of economic importance. Ambergris, a solid, waxy, flammable substance produced in their digestive system, was also sought as a fixative in perfumery. The whales’ teeth were carved by sailors into scrimshaw art.
The number of Chinese white dolphins in Hong Kong waters has been decreasing, according to the latest official statistics, suggesting that government efforts to preserve the endangered species appear to be making little headway.
According to the 2016/17 Marine Mammals Monitoring Report published by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD), there were only 47 sightings of Chinese white dolphins in the waters off Lantau, where they tend to appear most often.
The number represented a 27 percent drop from the previous year and the lowest since 2002. There were no sightings for the second year in a row in the northeast waters of Lantau, where the main construction work for the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge is taking place
In 1997, the Chinese white dolphin was chosen as the mascot to mark Hong Kong’s return to Chinese rule. It is listed among the wild animals under Grade 1 conservation according to Chinese law.
To prepare the report on marine mammals, researchers conducted a total of 178 line-transect vessel surveys in 10 survey areas in Hong Kong waters between April 2016 and March 2017.
Of the 1,233 dolphins sighted during the 12-month period, including Chinese white dolphins, only 17 were unspotted juveniles.
These young calves comprised only 1.4 percent of the total, compared with nearly 8 percent in 2003, suggesting the population of dolphins may dwindle in the future.
Dr. Samuel Hung Ka-yiu, chairman of the Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society and lead writer of the AFCD report, said the construction of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge has had a great impact on the habitat of the Chinese white dolphin, according to hk01.com.
Construction of the planned third runway and the high-speed ferries that regularly pass the waters are further threats to the animals’ survival, Hung said.
To help preserve the dolphins, Hung urged the government to establish a large marine protected area in West Lantau waters.
“Habitat destruction from expanding reclamation work in Lantau waters and the hi-speed marine traffic in the area have increased the stress on the dolphin population,” the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) said. “The underwater noise generated inhibits their echolocation capability.”
These disturbances threaten the survival of the remaining dolphins in Hong Kong waters, said Samantha Lee, WWF-Hong Kong conservation manager for oceans.
WWF-Hong Kong urges the government to establish the West Lantau Marine Park as soon as possible to protect the remaining dolphin habitats.