[MARMAM] Link to new article on cetacean mother-calf behavior

Mari Smultea msmultea at gmail.com
Fri Mar 10 09:23:02 PST 2017

Smultea Sciences is pleased to announce and share a PDF link to our recent
publication entitled "Cetacean Mother-calf Behavior Observed from a Small
Aircraft off Southern California" in the journal Animal Behavior and
Cognition, based on observations, video and photos taken from our circling
research aircraft during 2008-2013.


During early developmental stages, cetacean calves are dependent on their
mothers for survival. Protection of young whales engaged in behaviors that
are biologically important is critical for population recovery, so that
appropriate management actions can be taken to minimize human disturbance.
However, the occurrence and frequency of whale nursing and calves
back-riding their mothers (both considered important to calf survival) have
rarely been observed nor adequately quantified or defined. Therefore, it
may not always be clear when disruption is
occurring. We used extended behavioral observations, still photography, and
video camera footage obtained during aircraft surveys in the Southern
California Bight in 2008 – 2013 to characterize cetacean mother-calf
Based on observations of four mother/calf pairs (two gray whale,
Eschrichtius robustus, one fin whale, Balaenoptera physalus, and one blue
whale, B. musculus) and one killer whale presumed mother/yearling pair
(Orcinus orca), we describe bouts of nursing and calves riding on the backs
of their presumed mothers, including activity duration, frequency, and
relative body positioning. We conclude with specific definitions useful to
wildlife conservation agencies authorizing and establishing restrictions to
certain human activities when they might constitute behavioral disruptions.

This article is open access and can be downloaded at:


We strongly encourage those with especially drone video and other data on
cetacean-mother calf potential nursing, back riding etc. to build on this
article to refine and quantify such critical parameters needed for
conservation and management.

Mari Smultea, PhD
Chief Scientist/CEO
Smultea Sciences (SES)
mari at smulteasciences.com
(707) 362-5376
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