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Et tu, Brude?

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Animal Updates | Mammals | Conservation | Education | Whale Watching

Thursday, June 26, 2014


Et tu, Brude?
The marvelous cow/calf pair of Bryde's whales  | Alisa Schulman-Janiger

The Story of the Bryde’s Whales and the First Blue of the Season!

This is a whale we have seldom blogged about and it is an honor to do so! The name of these whales remind me that it is wedding season; Bryde’s, but don’t let the name confuse you. It is pronounced Brū-de or Brū-des whale. The reason I am mentioning them is because we just had two sightings of a cow/calf pair, something super rare that I have never seen in the four years I have been here! These tropical whales are named after Joham Brydes, a former councilman in South Africa who facilitated with creating the first whaling station in that country. Though named after a Norwegian man, there are so many other sub-species and names of Brydes whales to date, and some that are still being discovered and categorized. They are the fourth largest baleen whale which makes them larger than a minke whale yet smaller than a fin whale. They average about fifty feet in length and range from 12-25 tons. These whales are super hard to identify since they look almost identical to fin whales but have three distinct ridges along the top of their rostrum. Luckily some photos were taken of our recent sighting by Alisa Schulman-Janiger, of the California Killer Whale and Gray Whale Census and Behavior Project, and had to be used to confirm our species identification! They are baleen whales, and in the rorqual family like humpbacks and blues, but don’t just feed on plankton. These whales eat a variety of aquatic animals including crustaceans, squid and anchovies. They use their hundreds of baleen plates to sift through the water column either at the surface, at deep depth, or even use the famous bubble netting techniques that other cetacean species have mastered.

The Bryde’s whales are primarily warm water mammals that can be seen in tropical to subtropical waters throughout the world. It is rare to see them off of our coast, unless we are having a warm water influx, or, an El Niño year. This year has been predicted to be an El Niño, which means our water temperatures may be raising and our precipitation may increase (hopefully helping our drought). This means, we may have some interesting animal sightings this year which has already seemed to begin with these whale sightings, and the recent pilot whale sightings down south.

Also, WE HAD OUR FIRST BLUE! Our blue was sighted on June 24th during the 12pm trip near the Long Beach oil rigs. Not only was the big blue seen this day, but also fantastic close sightings of curious fin whales. This might mark the beginning of our season and we are super excited to have them here! I was fortunate to be aboard this trip and I am sure the guests felt my exuberance!

Bottlenose, commons, and even spectacular Risso’s dolphins and even a great white shark have also been highlights of our recent trips. So what are you waiting for? Come on out with us to check-off some things on your bucket list and enjoy the ocean breeze and the sunshine!

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