Tech & Science: Scientists accurately weigh living whales for the first time thanks to drones - - PressFrom - United Kingdom
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Tech & Science Scientists accurately weigh living whales for the first time thanks to drones

11:50  02 october  2019
11:50  02 october  2019 Source:   inews.co.uk

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Baleen whales , which include species like the blue whale , are the largest animals on this planet, with body mass being central to their success as an animal group. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission.

Now scientists have solved the conundrum, with the help of aerial photographs taken by drones . Their model accurately calculated the body volume and "The ability to predict body mass from free- living whales opens up the opportunity for us to look at animals over time and look at how they change

animal on the water © Provided by Johnston Publishing Ltd

Scientists have been able to accurately weigh living whales for the first time thanks to cutting edge drone technology.

Previously, the only way to work out whales' body mass was by weighing those which had either died or become stranded.

The British Ecological Society was able to work out the body length, width and height of whales from photographs taken by drones hovering above the sea.

Knowing a whale's body mass can provide insight into how stress factors affect its survival and fertility, as well as how much sedative it may take to knock it out if it becomes tangled in fishing nets and distressed by attempts to untangle it.

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Drones can be used to work out the body mass of the largest animals on the planet, helping in their conservation. Their model accurately calculated the body volume and mass of wild southern right whales . Already being used to assess the survival of calves, it has many potential uses in conservation.

Scientists can now weigh wild whales using remote-controlled drones hovering above them. In the past it has only been possible to measure the Doing this makes scientists more able to study what the ocean giants eat, how their bodies change over time and how certain stresses affect their health.

It can also help researchers to understand how the sea mammals grow over time from calves and the amount of energy they require to do so, alongside their daily energy consumption and how much they need to eat.

The drones took photos of 86 southern right whales off the coast of Península Valdés, Argentina, where the animals gather to breed each winter.

animal on the water © Provided by Johnston Publishing Ltd Southern right whales typically measure between 15m and 17m long and weigh an estimated 90,000kg. They have a life expectancy of around 50 years, though an estimated 150,000 have been killed by whalers, according to charity Whale and Dolphin Conservation.

The length, width and height measurements obtained from the pictures were used to build 3D digital models of the whales to map their body shape and volume.

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A young sperm whale that washed ashore on the southeast coast of Spain in February most likely died after being unable to digest more than 60 pounds of plastic trash, fish netting and garbage bags in its stomach and intestines, scientists said this month.

Scientists suspect the biggest contributing factor endangering the orcas may be the disappearance of Chinook salmon, which is also endangered. “Just the presence of boats can cause the whales to spend less time feeding,” said Lynne Barre, of NOAA Fisheries, recovery coordinator for the orcas.

"We used this model to estimate the body volume of whales caught in scientific whaling operations, for which body girth and mass was known," said Assistant Professor Fredrik Christiansen from Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies in Denmark.

  Scientists accurately weigh living whales for the first time thanks to drones © Provided by Johnston Publishing Ltd

"From these estimates of body volume, we could then calculate the density of the whales, which we in turn could use to estimate the mass of free-living whales photographed by our drones."

Estimating whales' constant body density is challenging, as the animals' fat and tissue changes seasonally. Similarly, weighing whale corpses was often inaccurate as their bodies tend to bloat after death.

Photo issued by the British Ecological Society of a mother whale with her calf © Press Association Photo issued by the British Ecological Society of a mother whale with her calf

Marine biologists from Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia flew drones over the blowholes of humpback whales to collect samples of their nasal mucus in May.

The mucus was tested for lung bacteria and viruses to determine the health of the animal.

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