22.11.2018 – Knowledge is key
We had trips in the morning aboard both of our boats today, with the crew and guests aboard the Stenella being the luckier ones and scoring a sightings of Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) near Funchal. After the sighting our crew also managed a good deed by removing an at least 10m long black pipe out of the ocean and transporting it to the waste management of Calheta marina.
Unfortunately, plastic sightings tend to be more frequent than cetacean sightings in todays oceans, which is why scientific research on the populations of these animals and their social structures is extremely vital. Population dynamics and habitat use indicate the importance of specific areas for different species of cetaceans and can ultimately lead to more effective efforts in their conservation and the creation of marine protected areas. The dynamic and ever changing biodiversity of Madeira’s waters makes this all the more necessary!
This afternoon, Ana Dinis held a presentation at the Natural History Museum in Funchal, outlining the current scientific projects on cetaceans frequenting the island. The two best documented and abundant cetacean species occurring in Madeiras waters are probably the Bottlenose dolphins and the Short-finned pilot whales (Globicephala macrorhynchus). Through a combination of tissue, blowhole-water and faeces samples along with extensive photographic data, the scientists can get substantial information about the population dynamics of the animals. Here, three different patterns of occurrence around the island have been defined within a species; resident animals, transients and visitors. These patterns are defined differently according to the species and help scientists recognise core animal communities within oceanic populations.
Apart from sharing her method and some of her research results, Ana also had some great news for her audience! Ana and her colleague, Filipe Alves, were awarded a generous sum of funds for their project „Whale Tales“ by the OceanoAzulFoundation in Lisbon. The pending MARE project should help grant insight into the movement and habitat use of different cetacean populations, particularly Sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus).
It is incredibly reassuring that cetacean research is receiving some of the support it requires. As the apex predators of ocean habitats, cetaceans are living indicators of the health and stability of marine trophic webs and vital for marine ecosystems. The more we know about them, the more we can do to protect our oceans.
By Paula Thake
Sightings of the day
10:00 No sighting
10:00 Bottlenose dolphins