Museum of Marine Life - Bay of Fundy/Grand Manan Island
of Fundy attracts marine mammals, primarily to feed, although some reside
year round. The endangered right whale is at home from June through
late October/November in most years. At times there are as many or
more of these rare whales in the Bay as other large baleen whales such
as humpback whales and finback whales.
of species of seals (pinnipeds), whales, dolphins, porpoises (cetaceans)
are commonly seen, some only occasionally, others rarely. Other aquatic
and semi-aquatic species may also be seen such as river otters, muskrat
and beavers. Some recently extinct or extirpated species are included
as a reference to previous occurrence.
Marine mammals include Cetaceans
(whales, dolphins (marine and river), porpoises), Pinnipeds
(true seals or phocids, earred seals or otariids, walrus or odobenid),
Sirenians (manatees, dugongs, Steller Sea Cow-now extinct) and some Carnivores
(polar bears, sea otters). Not all of these groups are represented
in the Bay of Fundy. Other mammals which may be
seen in salt water but not considered marine mammals include:
River otters (Lontra canadensis canadensis)
Of the freshwater aquatic mammals
along the Bay of Fundy region, few would be expected to venture into the
marine environment with the exception of river otters (Lontra canadensis
canadensis) which are frequently seen around Grand Manan and other
islands, and a now extinct form of mink, the sea mink (Mustela vison
Canadian beaver (Castor canadensis)
Muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus zibethicus)
Norway rat (Rattus norvegicus)
Moose (Alces alces americana)
White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus borealis)
mink (Mustela vison macrodon) - extinct & Caribou (Rangifer
tarandus caribou) - extirpated)
Other possibilities are the
Canadian beaver (Castor canadensis) and the muskrat (Ondatra
zibethicus zibethicus), probably only briefly if swimming from place
to place. Beaver remains were found in middens (aboriginal shell and bone
heaps) when excavated on Grand Manan in the 1800s but beaver were not present
when the United Empire Loyalists settled in 1784.
Some land mammals have colonized
islands in the archipelago but although their introduction was by sea it
was usually connected with human activities, such as the Norway rat (Rattus
norvegicus), its introduction usually by ship.
Moose (Alces alces americana)
and caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) have been known to swim
great distances but neither now live on Grand Manan. Moose were introduced
to Grand Manan in the late 1700s but did not survive. It is questionable
whether caribou ever lived on Grand Manan, although there is one record
of a caribou being shot ca. 1887, probably swimming from Maine where caribou
were once abundant. White-tailed deer
(Odocoileus virginianus borealis),
moose and caribou remains were not found in excavated middens. The present
population of white-tailed deer were introduced, however, white tailed
deer do swim on occasion and frequently walk along the shore. Game
farmed European red deer are found on two farms on the island but these
are relatively recent enterprises and the deer do not roam freely.
have a wide range of behaviours that serve a variety of functions - some
of which we still do not understand. The context of the behaviour is often
important to understanding why it is performed. Our brief glimpse of what
they do at the surface (whales spend less than 10% of their time at the
surface) only serves to tease and tantalize our imaginations to what they
might do the rest of the time.
Common Terms Used to Describe
see ROUND OUT
exhalation of a whale and the visible breath - cloud of air with condensed water droplets
forming a spray. Whale species have distinctive blows - right whales have
V-shaped blows, humpbacks have bushy, balloon shaped blows, finback and
blue whales have tall straight blows, visible from great distances, sperm
whale blows veer off to one side. Wind and sighting angle can confuse the
usually done by dolphins. They swim in the bow wave of a traveling vessel or whale. If the dolphin stays in a certain portion of the bow wave it will be carried forward without swimming.
water that is pushed ahead of a traveling vessel or whale.
leaping vertically out of the water, sometimes completely
clearly the water, followed by a two phase splash and a loud bang. Robust,
rotund whales (such as humpback and right whales) tend to breach more frequently
than long streamlined whales (such as finback whales) but all whales can
breach. Breaching can last several minutes and involve 40 to over 100 leaps
or may occur only once. Humpback whales often spin as they come out of
the water, falling onto the water with their back or side. Sometimes more
than one whale will breach at once. In the Bay of Fundy, basking sharks
also breach. Breaching is a multi-faceted behaviour - it can be for fun,
because of excitement or arousal, to get a better view above water, to
remove irritants such as remora (sucker fish), for communication (loud
bang), the termination of a rapid rise to the surface (the whale overshoots
the surface), during courtship (avoidance, excitement, frustration) or
the whale may be startled.
circular patch of bubbles.
BUBBLE FEEDING: see BUBBLE NETTING
BUBBLE NETTING, BUBBLE FEEDING:
humpback whale often blow bubbles in a spiral
or board base which keep schooling fish such as herring in tight groups.
When the bubble rise to the surface they are visible as a circular green
patch. Keep clear of these areas! The whales may surface through these
patches, with or without their mouth open. See also LUNGE FEEDING
stream of bubbles sometimes associated with aggressive behaviour.
pulses of sound produced when echolocating. Individual sounds are called CLICKS.
COURTSHIP GROUP, SURFACE ACTIVE GROUP:
typically right whales engage in social behaviour at the surface which may result in mating. Unlike many species which have distinct breeding times, right whale courtship groups may occur at any time. It is one of the world's great wildlife spectacles with from 2 to 45 whales engaged in vigorous surface activity centred around a single female. Breaching, tail slaps, flipper slaps and many other behaviours may be seen. A female can sometimes be seen lying belly up, holding her breath while males jostle to be next to her when she rolls over to breath. Alternatively, she may raise her tail into the air. Males are unable to manoeuvre properly in this orientation and again wait for her to take a breath. Surface active groups may also be mothers and calves playing or young whales socializing.
time spent beneath the surface for foraging, traveling, etc.
sound patterns produced to navigate and find food.
see PEC WAVE
see PEC SLAP
-see PEC WAVE
FLUKE-UP, FLUKE-DOWN, FLUKE-OVER, TERMINAL DIVE:
after arching its body, several whale species lift their flukes (flattened portion of the tail) above the surface (such as humpback, right and blue whales). The movement may be quick if the whale is travelling or doing shallow dives, or may be very slow giving ample time to take photographs. Individual humpback whales can be identified by the colour patterns on the underside of the flukes.
whalers term for a group of whales.
HEAD RAISE, SPYHOP:
lifting the head vertically above the water, sometimes turning before sinking back into the water. This action often lifts the eyes above the water surface. Curiosity, activities with other whales can be possible reasons for spyhopping.
the whale submerges tail first, sometimes after a spyhop. Male right whales head sink when they are making a specific vocalization called a "gunshot". Usually a single male or pair are involved.
see TAIL SLAP
when a whale lies quietly at the surface, breathing regularly but widely spaced; often associated with resting and calm sea conditions. Whales do
not sleep as we do because they are voluntary breathers and must remain semi-conscious to continue breathing.
LUNGING, LUNGE FEEDING, GULPING:
a quick, horizontal burst from the water with open mouth, seen most often when whales such as finbacks and humpbacks are feeding close to the surface
LUNGE BREACH: often follows a series of true or complete breaches. The whale comes out of the water at a lower angle and belly flops creating a large splash and loud bang. This may be for the same reasons as a true breach or it may be the termination of a feeding lunge (the whale has already closed its mouth underwater).
the mother usually lies relatively motionless at the surface and appears to be logging but the calf disappears beneath her. Sometimes the female can be seen arching her back slightly, or the calf's tail raises to the surface.
PEC SLAP, FLIPPER SLAP:
the whales lie on their side and slap one flipper, or lie on their back and alternately slap their flippers on the surface. The sound can be heard for great distances, above and below the water. Mothers and calves frequently flipper slap. It is also more common when the seas are rough. Calves often flipper slap probably in play or to attract their mother's attention.
PEC WAVE, FLIPPER WAVE:
whales lie on their side or back and instead of slapping, simply wave their flippers in the air. Flipper slapping may follow. In humpbacks you can sometimes see pinkish skin on the white flipper when the whale is trying to eliminate body heat (increased blood flow to the skin surface - whales don't "sweat").
see ROUND OUT
PEDUNCLE SLAP, TAIL LASH:
the whale lifts its peduncle and tail out of the water and swings it sideways before dropping it onto the water or another whale.
Usually indicates a more aggressive behaviour, sometimes toward a vessel which is too close.
group of whales, often a family group in odontocetes.
repeated clearing of the water surface in a low arc when swim quickly through water, thus reducing drag and increasing swimming speed. Commonly seen in dolphins.
ROUND OUT, PEDUNCLE ARCH, BACK ARCH:
whales arch their back and peduncle (between the tail and the main body - alternatively, tail stalk) while moving forward, bending their heads downward to begin the downward descent of a dive. Some whales arch more than others and the depth of the dive may also determine the degree of arching. The arch may be followed by the
often used with male humpback whales during the mating period when their behaviour can be vigourous and energetic.
extending the tail and peduncle into the air with the head down and allowing the wind to move the whale. It is usually seen in individual whales and seems
to be for pleasure.
right whales feed by swimming with their mouth open and filtering plankton from the seawater. When done at the surface, baleen plates can clearly be seen. Right whales will also lift and lower their heads with their mouth open at the surface while staying in one spot, rinsing their baleen.
see HEAD RAISE
STRANDING or BEACHING:
animal comes ashore for a variety of reasons including navigational errors, sickness or injury. Can be alive or dead when
they come ashore in single or mass strandings. Some species learn to repeatedly strand and refloat themselves to grab prey, such as bottlenose dolphins chasing mullet onto the shore or orcas grabbing seals from a beach.
SURFACE ACTIVE GROUP:
see COURTSHIP GROUP
time spent at the surface between dives
see TAIL SLAP
TAIL SLAP, TAIL LOBBING, LOBTAILING:
the whale lifts its tail much further out of the water than when fluking up. The tail is then brought down, slapping
the water surface usually creating a large bang which can be heard in the distance and spray or white water. As with flipper slapping, whales often tail lob in rough seas. This may be a form of sound communication or can be play.
directed movement with regularly spaced surfacing. Quick fluke-ups may occur in species which fluke-up when deep diving. Dives tend to be more shallow and dive times shorter than when feeding during the day.
WAKE, FOOT PRINT:
circular mark left on the water surface after a whale dives or when it is traveling just under the water surface. Caused by the
up and down motion of the flukes upwelling water to the surface. Other marine mammals may also leave wakes when diving.
Many terms used for cetaceans can also be used for seals and in addition:
referring to pinnipeds hanging vertically at the surface with head above water. Sometimes the head is tipped backwards.
climbing out of the water onto a hard surface such as sand, rock or ice and in some areas piers, boats, etc.
area where a number of pinnipeds aggregate such as a beach, rocky shore, etc. Usually some preference is maintained for a site but
this can change over time depending on a variety of factors including human activities.
WHELPING PATCH: area where pinnipeds aggregate to pup.
Anatomical Terms and Definitions for Marine Mammals:
plates that hang down from the upper palate - top of the mouth; arranged in rows with dense hairs on the inside, smooth on the outside, made of the same material as fingernails - keratinized protein; used to filter food from the water.
protruding mouth part of a dolphin.
condensed water vapour seen when a cetacean exhales; species can be tentatively identified by shape of blow.
nasal opening on the top of the head; single in toothed cetaceans, double in baleen whales.
thick layer of fat below the skin which keeps cetaceans warm, streamlined, buoyant and a store of food energy.
large callosity at the crest or top of the head of right whales.
stiff hairs that are not whiskers or the fringe on baleen plates.
roughened patches of skin on a right whale's head where we would have facial hair; eyebrow, moustache, chin whiskers
collective term for all whale, dolphins and porpoises.
pale grey mark behind the head of finback whales.
structure lacking bony support along the mid-back present in most cetaceans but not all; used to prevent animal from rolling side to side while swimming and for cooling; shape varies between species.
instead of a dorsal fin some species have a dorsal hump such as grey and sperm whales.
instead of a dorsal fin some species have a dorsal ridge such as beluga and narwhal.
small pinhole behind eye; sound actually is received through lower jaw in toothed whales rather than external ear.
curved, hooked or sickle shaped - used to define shape of some dorsal fins.
FLIPPER OR PECTORAL FIN:
modified forearm containing the hand with 5 digits and the arm bones, radius, ulna and humerus; used to steer, brake, for holding, noise production (slapping water), cooling.
flattened portion of tail lacking bony support; used primarily for swimming.
FOOTPRINT or FLUKEPRINT:
circular well of water left on the water surface when a cetacean dives. Flukeprint can also refer to colour pattern and trailing edge of underside of flukes in humpbacks.
small projections located along the mid line of the back posterior to the dorsal fin or hump. These bumps may occur over the neural spine of the vertebrae and are sometimes more visible on thin whales.
foetal hair that may be shed before or after birth depending on the species. Many seals shed their lanugo after birth.
curved or rounded projection such as either side of the flukes.
ridge along the centre of the head from tip of snout to blowholes.
fatty lens in head of toothed cetaceans; used to concentrate sound waves produced for echolocation; forehead.
the shedding of fur, hair or skin
the bony process that protects the nerve cord as it runs the length of the vertebrae. In cetaceans it is particularly long in the thoracic vertebrae
V-shaped indentation dividing rear edge of flukes of many cetaceans.
hair or fur covering on body
hind limbs that have been webbed and may be used for similar functions as pectoral fins
colouration of skin used to identify individual whales.
external ear flaps
forward extension of upper jaw.
grey patch behind the dorsal fin.
TAILSTOCK or PEDUNCLE:
narrow, rear part of cetacean between flukes and body.
THROAT GROOVES or PLEATS:
area along the throat that can be enlarged to increase the size of the mouth.
the bony projections on either side of the central portion of the vertebrae
small bumps on the head of humpback whales and the leading edge of the dorsal fin of harbour porpoises.
urogenital slit for exit of body wastes and for reproduction.
bone(s) that make up the spinal column. Divided into cervical (neck), thoracic (upper body), lumbar (lower back), and caudal (tail).
whaler's term for baleen; used historically in corsets, hoop skirts, etc.
created by rendering (or melting) blubber
stiff facial hairs serving a sensory function.