Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Drippy-nose and her 2011 Calf

Drippy-nose and her 2011 calf were seen for the first time in the Bay of Fundy on August 27 just before tropical storm Irene moved through the area.  She and her calf were seen again August 30 by the New England Aquarium research team.  She was not seen on the calving ground in the winter but was seen off the Cape Cod area in the spring with her several months old calf.  In 2008 she also wasn't seen on the calving area off Florida/Georgia, but was first seen with her calf in the Bay of Fundy with a large calf probably six to eight months old. 

The calf's callosity pattern on its head, cornified skin that forms unique patterns on the head of all right whales, was photographed and the calf can be followed for the rest of its life using these unique patterns.  Whale lice do live on the callosities giving them a more colourful appearance but the callosities themselves do not greatly change over time, other than the head growing in size.  Calves also loose the concave shape to their head and it becomes convex.  Right whale calves often have more orange whale lice than adults.  This species of whale lice tend to be more prevalent on slow moving calves and adults that are compromised by injury or illness.  Whale lice eat the constantly sloughing skin on right whales.  Calves are growing quickly and probably slough more skin; the skin of sick animals often turns grey and sloughs in large sheets, promoting the growth of whale lice.

Drippy-nose's 5th calf born in 2011, left side of head

Drippy-nose's 5th calf born in 2011, right side of head

Drippy-nose's callosity pattern.  The white mark in the coaming callosity
(immediately before the blowholes is distinctive).

White scarring on Drippy-nose's tail from an entanglement in fishing gear.
Drippy-nose, AKA Sonnet, was first seen as a calf with her mother Kleenex in the Bay of Fundy in 1981.  At 30 years of age, this is her fifth calf.  She had her first calf when she was 10.  Calves are generally spaced at three years or more (one year pregnancy, one year nursing, one year recovering weight lost during the year of nursing).

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