According to officials, wildlife authorities in Australia are investigating the deaths of 14 young sperm whales discovered beached on an island off the country’s southeast coast.
The sperm whale also referred to as the cachalot, is the enormous toothed whale and the greatest toothed predator. It is the only surviving member of the genus Physeter and one of the three extant species in the sperm whale family, along with the pygmy sperm whale and dwarf sperm whale of the genus Kogia.
The sperm whale is an aquatic mammal with a wide range that migrates seasonally for feeding and reproduction.
Females and young males live in groups, whereas mature males live alone outside the breeding season. The females cooperate to look after and defend their young. Females give birth and raise calves for more than ten years, once every four to twenty years. Although killer whale pods occasionally attack calves and weak adults, mature sperm whales have few natural predators.
A primary aim of the whaling industry, spermaceti (sperm oil), from which the whale gets its name, was sought for use in oil lamps, lubricants, and candles. One of the most prized uses of ambergris, a solid waxy waste product occasionally found in an animal’s digestive tract, is a fixative in perfumes.
The whales were found on King Island, a portion of Tasmania, on Monday afternoon in the Bass Strait between Melbourne and Tasmania’s northern shore, according to a state Department of Natural Resources and Environment statement.
Tuesday, a team from the government’s Marine Conservation Program visited the island and began doing necropsies on the whales to ascertain the exact cause of death.
In the department’s photos, whales may be seen lying on their sides in shallow water on the rocky island beach.
Authorities intended to undertake an airborne survey to ascertain if there were any further whales in the region.
According to a recent study, seven historic “clans” of sperm whales exist in the vast Pacific Ocean and display their cultural identity through various click patterns in their songs.
It’s the first time that cultural markers have been seen in whales, and they resemble the different languages or tattoos that serve as symbols of cultural identification in human communities.
The revelation advances our understanding of what whales communicate with one another through their underwater songs, which has remained a mystery after years of study.
Taylor Hersh, bioacoustics and lead author of the study that was recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, said that sperm whales frequently exchange streams of loud clicks with one another while they are resting near the surface in between dives into deeper waters, sometimes more than a mile down, in search of prey like squid and fish.
Sperm whale “songs” are the streams of clicks that are divided into “codas,” however they are not particularly musical and sometimes sound like hammering and squeaking (Navy sonar operators used to refer to sperm whales as “carpenter fish” because of this).
Although the meaning of each sperm whale coda is unknown, Hersh noted that they can have unique rhythms and tempos that are referred to as “dialects.” The latest research demonstrates that these patterns contain particular types of clicks that whales employ as “identification codas” to declare their membership in a particular clan. These patterns are brief bursts of clicks that resemble pieces of Morse code.
She claimed that identity codas are incredibly particular to the many whale’s cultural groups.
Whales from different clans typically don’t communicate when they are in the same waters, which also demonstrates that sperm whales highlight their dialects when competing clans are around. This telltale behavior is also observed in humans.
The study examined more than 40 years’ worth of sperm whale underwater cries recorded at 23 Pacific Ocean locations, including Canada, New Zealand, Japan, and South America. The researchers then used an artificial intelligence system to identify which of the more than 23,000 click patterns they had extracted from these were distinctive identity codas.
According to their current findings, Hersh said that the Pacific Ocean is home to at least seven separate sperm whale “vocal clans,” each with a unique identifying code.
Thousands of individual sperm whales could make up each clan, and sounds from the same clan have been heard at the furthest reaches of the Pacific Ocean, sometimes more than 9,000 miles apart. There may be as few as 360,000 sperm whales in the world’s waters, with the Pacific home to about half of them; the exact number is unknown.
The region where they were found on the shore was within their normal range and habitat, according to the department, and sperm whale sightings in Tasmania are not unusual.
Although more research must be done, the Environment Department stated that the whales probably belonged to the same bachelor pod, which is made up of young male sperm whales who associate with one another after leaving their mother’s group.
Surfers and swimmers were cautioned to stay away from the area if the whales’ bodies attracted sharks to the neighboring seas.
The largest mass stranding in Australian history occurred two years ago when some 470 long-finned pilot whales were discovered beached on sandbars off the west coast of Tasmania.
One hundred eleven of those whales were saved after a week-long effort, but the others perished.