[MARMAM] New paper on sperm whale suckling

Shane Gero sgero at dal.ca
Thu Mar 29 11:42:13 PDT 2007

Dear Marmamers,


We are pleased to announce the publication of the following article in
Marine Mammal Science:


S. Gero and H. Whitehead (2007) Suckling behaviour in sperm whale calves:
observations and hypotheses. Marine Mammal Science 23(2): 398-413.




This study is the first to describe quantitatively the apparent suckling
behaviour of sperm whale, Physeter macrocephalus (Linnaeus, 1758), calves
using observations from both above and below the surface. Peduncle dives are
short (mean 14 s) dives made by sperm whale calves beside the peduncle of an
adult female, which were

previously assumed to be indicative of suckling. Photo-identification and
focal calf follows were used to collect data during 177 peduncle dive bouts
from 22 different

calves (11 calves from the Caribbean Sea, 11 from the Sargasso Sea), one of
which was followed on forty different days. We found that peduncle diving in
sperm whale

calves is laterally asymmetrical with a bias to the left side of the
escorting adult (69.8% of peduncle dives) and that calves generally do not
switch sides during a bout

of peduncle dives (switches occurred in only 10.8% of bouts). Further
subsurface observations gave insight into potential alternative functions of
peduncle diving.

These alternative hypotheses, including nasal suckling, and the existing
supporting evidence for each are discussed. It is likely that peduncle
diving is related to suckling

but that the exact function of the dives and manner in which sperm whale
calves ingest milk remains unclear.


The article is available online and will be in print in the April Issue.



Shane Gero



Shane Gero, M.Sc.

NSERC Ph.D. Candidate

Whitehead Lab

Biology Dept.

Dalhousie University

Halifax, NS

B3H 4J1 Canada


sgero at dal.ca



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