Other MERS Research

In addition to our ongoing humpback and minke whale projects, MERS members have been involved in research focused on a wide variety of subjects, from killer whales to sea slugs. Some of our recent research contributions are outlined below.

MERS in Antarctica

While in sub-Antarctic waters in March 2010, MERS members Heidi Krajewsky and Jared Towers were able to collect data on a previously undescribed and largely unknown population of killer whales. Their records when combined with the few others in existence show that this morphologically distinct population of killer whales is pelagic and has a circumpolar distribution in the Southern Ocean. These results were published in the journal Polar Biology in August 2010. Very little else is known about these "Type D" sub-Antarctic killer whales because of the challenges of working in the environment that these animals call home.

See link for more details.

Type D orca
A type D killer whale in sub-Antarctic waters. Photo credit: Audrey Scott

Ecological Markers

Ecological markers are indicators of species interactions that can be used to infer information about an animal's previous movements. For cetaceans, they can include scars from bites of cookiecutter sharks, swordfish beaks embedded in the blubber, as well as the occurrence of barnacles on the bodies of individual whales. As each of these markers originate in tropical regions of the ocean they can provide evidence of long range movements or migrations when documented at high latitudes. MERS has been documenting temporal patterns of cookiecutter shark scars on individual whales and comparing these to other scars such as those created by lampreys. This has been done on both live and dead baleen whales and is a useful tool to indicate where animals spend their winter and, based on healing of the scars, how many months they have been in temperate waters. cookiecutter shark scars
A humpback whale with scars from a cookiecutter shark