First molecular determination of herpesvirus from two mysticete species stranded in the Mediterranean Sea.
ABSTRACT: Herpesvirus can infect a wide range of animal species: mammals, birds, reptiles, fish, amphibians and bivalves. In marine mammals, several alpha- and gammaherpesvirus have been identified in some cetaceans and pinnipeds species. To date, however, this virus has not been detected in any member of the Balaenoptera genus.Herpesvirus was determined by molecular methods in tissue samples from a male fin whale juvenile (Balaenoptera physalus) and a female common minke whale calf (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) stranded on the Mediterranean coast of the Region of Valencia (Spain). Samples of skin and penile mucosa from the fin whale and samples of skin, muscle and central nervous system tissue from the common minke whale tested positive for herpesvirus based on sequences of the DNA polymerase gene. Sequences from fin whale were identical and belonged to the Alphaherpesvirinae subfamily. Only members of the Gammaherpesvirinae subfamily were amplified from the common minke whale, and sequences from the muscle and central nervous system were identical. Sequences in GenBank most closely related to these novel sequences were viruses isolated from other cetacean species, consistent with previous observations that herpesviruses show similar phylogenetic branching as their hosts.To our knowledge, this is the first molecular determination of herpesvirus in the Balaenoptera genus. It shows that herpesvirus should be included in virological evaluation of these animals.
Project description:One Environmental Health has emerged as an important area of research that considers the interconnectedness of human, animal and ecosystem health with a focus on toxicology. The great whales in the Gulf of Maine are important species for ecosystem health, for the economies of the Eastern seaboard of the United States, and as sentinels for human health. The Gulf of Maine is an area with heavy coastal development, industry, and marine traffic, all of which contribute chronic exposures to environmental chemicals that can bioaccumulate in tissues and may gradually diminish an individual whale's or a population's fitness. We biopsied whales for three seasons (2010-2012) and measured the levels of 25 metals and selenium in skin biopsies collected from three species: humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae), fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus), and a minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata). We established baseline levels for humpback and fin whales. Comparisons with similar species from other regions indicate humpback whales have elevated levels of aluminum, chromium, iron, magnesium, nickel and zinc. Contextualizing the data with a One Environmental Health approach finds these levels to be of potential concern for whale health. While much remains to understand what threats these metal levels may pose to the fitness and survival of these whale populations, these data serve as a useful and pertinent start to understanding the threat of pollution.
Project description:The marine ecosystem in the Pacific Arctic region has experienced dramatic transformation, most obvious by the loss of sea ice volume (75%), late-summer areal extent (50%) and change in phenology (four to six weeks longer open-water period). This alteration has resulted in an opening of habitat for subarctic species of baleen whales, many of which are recovering in number from severe depletions from commercial whaling in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Specifically, humpback, fin and minke whales (Megaptera novaeangliae, Balaenoptera physalus and Balaenoptera acutorostrata) are now regularly reported during summer and autumn in the southern Chukchi Sea. These predators of zooplankton and forage fishes join the seasonally resident grey whale (Eschrichtius robustus) and the arctic-endemic bowhead whale (Balaena mysticetus) in the expanding open-ocean habitat of the Pacific Arctic. Questions arising include: (i) what changes in whale-prey production and delivery mechanisms have accompanied the loss of sea ice, and (ii) how are these five baleen whale species partitioning the expanding ice-free habitat? While there has been no programme of research specifically focused on these questions, an examination of seasonal occurrence, foraging plasticity and (for bowhead whales) body condition suggests that the current state of Pacific Arctic marine ecosystem may be 'boom times' for baleen whales. These favourable conditions may be moderated, however, by future shifts in ecosystem structure and/or negative impacts to cetaceans related to increased commercial activities in the region.
Project description:The Antarctic minke whale (Balaenoptera bonaerensis), and the common minke whale found in the North Atlantic (Balaenoptera acutorostrata acutorostrata), undertake synchronized seasonal migrations to feeding areas at their respective poles during spring, and to the tropics in the autumn where they overwinter. Differences in the timing of seasons between hemispheres prevent these species from mixing. Here, based upon analysis of mitochondrial and microsatellite DNA profiles, we report the observation of a single B. bonaerensis in 1996, and a hybrid with maternal contribution from B. bonaerensis in 2007, in the Arctic Northeast Atlantic. Paternal contribution was not conclusively resolved. This is the first documentation of B. bonaerensis north of the tropics, and, the first documentation of hybridization between minke whale species.
Project description:This paper describes the natural variability of ambient sound in the Southern Ocean, an acoustically pristine marine mammal habitat. Over a 3-year period, two autonomous recorders were moored along the Greenwich meridian to collect underwater passive acoustic data. Ambient sound levels were strongly affected by the annual variation of the sea-ice cover, which decouples local wind speed and sound levels during austral winter. With increasing sea-ice concentration, area and thickness, sound levels decreased while the contribution of distant sources increased. Marine mammal sounds formed a substantial part of the overall acoustic environment, comprising calls produced by Antarctic blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus intermedia), fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus), Antarctic minke whales (Balaenoptera bonaerensis) and leopard seals (Hydrurga leptonyx). The combined sound energy of a group or population vocalizing during extended periods contributed species-specific peaks to the ambient sound spectra. The temporal and spatial variation in the contribution of marine mammals to ambient sound suggests annual patterns in migration and behaviour. The Antarctic blue and fin whale contributions were loudest in austral autumn, whereas the Antarctic minke whale contribution was loudest during austral winter and repeatedly showed a diel pattern that coincided with the diel vertical migration of zooplankton.
Project description:Six baleen whale species are found in the temperate western North Atlantic Ocean, with limited information existing on the distribution and movement patterns for most. There is mounting evidence of distributional shifts in many species, including marine mammals, likely because of climate-driven changes in ocean temperature and circulation. Previous acoustic studies examined the occurrence of minke (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) and North Atlantic right whales (NARW; Eubalaena glacialis). This study assesses the acoustic presence of humpback (Megaptera novaeangliae), sei (B. borealis), fin (B. physalus), and blue whales (B. musculus) over a decade, based on daily detections of their vocalizations. Data collected from 2004 to 2014 on 281 bottom-mounted recorders, totaling 35,033 days, were processed using automated detection software and screened for each species' presence. A published study on NARW acoustics revealed significant changes in occurrence patterns between the periods of 2004-2010 and 2011-2014; therefore, these same time periods were examined here. All four species were present from the Southeast United States to Greenland; humpback whales were also present in the Caribbean. All species occurred throughout all regions in the winter, suggesting that baleen whales are widely distributed during these months. Each of the species showed significant changes in acoustic occurrence after 2010. Similar to NARWs, sei whales had higher acoustic occurrence in mid-Atlantic regions after 2010. Fin, blue, and sei whales were more frequently detected in the northern latitudes of the study area after 2010. Despite this general northward shift, all four species were detected less on the Scotian Shelf area after 2010, matching documented shifts in prey availability in this region. A decade of acoustic observations have shown important distributional changes over the range of baleen whales, mirroring known climatic shifts and identifying new habitats that will require further protection from anthropogenic threats like fixed fishing gear, shipping, and noise pollution.
Project description:We describe a new species of the remarkable whalebone-eating siboglinid worm genus, Osedax, from a whale carcass in the shallow north Atlantic, west of Sweden. Previously only recorded from deep-sea (1500-3000 m) whale-falls in the northeast Pacific, this is the first species of Osedax known from a shelf-depth whale-fall, and the first from the Atlantic Ocean. The new species, Osedax mucofloris sp. n. is abundant on the bones of an experimentally implanted Minke whale carcass (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) at 125m depth in the shallow North Sea. O. mucofloris can be cultured on bones maintained in aquaria. The presence of O. mucofloris in the shallow North Sea and northeast Pacific suggests global distribution on whale-falls for the Osedax clade. Molecular evidence from mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase 1 (CO1) and 18S rRNA sequences suggests that O. mucofloris has high dispersal rates, and provides support for the idea of whale-falls acting as 'stepping-stones' for the global dispersal of siboglinid annelids over ecological and evolutionary time.
Project description:Marine mammals are an important part of ocean ecosystems, of which, whales play a vital role in the marine food chain. In this study, the mucosa and contents from different intestinal tract segments (ITSs) of a stranded dwarf minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) were analyzed. The gut microbiota were sequenced using high-throughput sequencing technology, based on a 16S rRNA approach. The microbial composition of the intestinal mucosa and its contents were similar in every single ITS. Large intestine microbiota richness and diversity were significantly higher when compared to the duodenum and jejunum. The dominant bacteria in the gut were Firmicutes and Actinobacteria; the former was enriched in the large intestine, whereas the latter was more abundant in the duodenum and jejunum. Our findings provide novel insights for microbiota in B. acutorostrata.
Project description:The Barents Sea system is often depicted as a simple food web in terms of number of dominant feeding links. The most conspicuous feeding link is between the Northeast Arctic cod Gadus morhua, the world's largest cod stock which is presently at a historical high level, and capelin Mallotus villosus. The system also holds diverse seabird and marine mammal communities. Previous diet studies may suggest that these top predators (cod, bird and sea mammals) compete for food particularly with respect to pelagic fish such as capelin and juvenile herring (Clupea harengus), and krill. In this paper we explored the diet of some Barents Sea top predators (cod, Black-legged kittiwake Rissa tridactyla, Common guillemot Uria aalge, and Minke whale Balaenoptera acutorostrata). We developed a GAM modelling approach to analyse the temporal variation diet composition within and between predators, to explore intra- and inter-specific interactions. The GAM models demonstrated that the seabird diet is temperature dependent while the diet of Minke whale and cod is prey dependent; Minke whale and cod diets depend on the abundance of herring and capelin, respectively. There was significant diet overlap between cod and Minke whale, and between kittiwake and guillemot. In general, the diet overlap between predators increased with changes in herring and krill abundances. The diet overlap models developed in this study may help to identify inter-specific interactions and their dynamics that potentially affect the stocks targeted by fisheries.
Project description:Knowing the migratory movements and behaviour of baleen whales is fundamental to understanding their ecology. We compared ?15N and ?13C values in the skin of blue (Balaenoptera musculus), fin (Balaenoptera physalus) and sei (Balaenoptera borealis) whales sighted in the Azores in spring with the values of potential prey from different regions within the North Atlantic using Bayesian mixing models to investigate their trophic ecology and migration patterns. Fin whale ?15N values were higher than those recorded in blue and sei whales, reflecting feeding at higher trophic levels. Whales' skin ?15N and ?13C values did not reflect prey from high-latitude summer foraging grounds; instead mixing models identified tropical or subtropical regions as the most likely feeding areas for all species during winter and spring. Yet, differences in ?13C values among whale species suggest use of different regions within this range. Blue and sei whales primarily used resources from the Northwest African upwelling and pelagic tropical/subtropical regions, while fin whales fed off Iberia. However, determining feeding habitats from stable isotope values remains difficult. In conclusion, winter feeding appears common among North Atlantic blue, fin and sei whales, and may play a crucial role in determining their winter distribution. A better understanding of winter feeding behaviour is therefore fundamental for the effective conservation of these species.
Project description:Bulk-filter feeding is an energetically efficient strategy for resource acquisition and assimilation, and facilitates the maintenance of extreme body size as exemplified by baleen whales (Mysticeti) and multiple lineages of bony and cartilaginous fishes. Among mysticetes, rorqual whales (Balaenopteridae) exhibit an intermittent ram filter feeding mode, lunge feeding, which requires the abandonment of body-streamlining in favor of a high-drag, mouth-open configuration aimed at engulfing a very large amount of prey-laden water. Particularly while lunge feeding on krill (the most widespread prey preference among rorquals), the effort required during engulfment involve short bouts of high-intensity muscle activity that demand high metabolic output. We used computational modeling together with morphological and kinematic data on humpback (Megaptera noveaangliae), fin (Balaenoptera physalus), blue (Balaenoptera musculus) and minke (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) whales to estimate engulfment power output in comparison with standard metrics of metabolic rate. The simulations reveal that engulfment metabolism increases across the full body size of the larger rorqual species to nearly 50 times the basal metabolic rate of terrestrial mammals of the same body mass. Moreover, they suggest that the metabolism of the largest body sizes runs with significant oxygen deficits during mouth opening, namely, 20% over maximum VO2 at the size of the largest blue whales, thus requiring significant contributions from anaerobic catabolism during a lunge and significant recovery after a lunge. Our analyses show that engulfment metabolism is also significantly lower for smaller adults, typically one-tenth to one-half VO2|max. These results not only point to a physiological limit on maximum body size in this lineage, but also have major implications for the ontogeny of extant rorquals as well as the evolutionary pathways used by ancestral toothed whales to transition from hunting individual prey items to filter feeding on prey aggregations.