Field Expedition Blog: Tagging Humpback Whales in the Antarctic with Suction Cups

Credit: Stephanie Thirolle / Duke University


A NSF-funded research team, led by scientists from Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment is at sea off Antarctica to measure the underwater movements and behaviors of endangered humpback and minke whales.

The researchers apply suction-cup tags to the animals to follow their movements.

The team will be making concurrent, detailed measurements of the distribution, abundance, and behavior of their prey, shrimp-like antarctic krill, as well as physical features of the waters in which the animals live.

The data will be used to visualize the foraging behavior of the whales and test specific hypotheses about how the whales feed, the amount of prey that is necessary to support whale feeding, how much time whales spend feeding and how much they consume on a daily basis, and how they make decisions about the specific patches of prey to exploit. 

The team includes scientists from Duke, the Univesity of New Hampshire; the University of Massachusetts, Boston; the University of Hawaii; Woods Hole Ocenographic Institution; Stony Brook University; and the University of North Carolina, Wilmington.

The team is making regular updates to a blog from the field and posting images here.