Whale research

Humpback whale spyhopping
Humpback whale spyhopping (Photo: Sarah Robinson)
Taking off on a whale aerial surveyMinke whale tagged in AntarcticaA pygmy blue whale being tagged by researchers in a small boat.

The Australian Government has invested millions of dollars in research and other activities to promote whale conservation.

Australia has also provided support to the South Pacific Whale Research Consortium to assist its work in the region.

Obtaining samples of animals that never come ashore can be very challenging. Fortunately, a whale's physiology requires it to defecate near the surface. This provides boat-based researchers with an opportunity to collect faecal material with special 'scoopers'. Australian biologists are developing new techniques to obtain information from these samples.

DNA sampling provides more data than can be obtained through opening a dead whale's stomach, and in a form that can be repeatedly and independently verified. Whereas stomach contents represent only a whale's recent intake, a series of whale scats promises a more complete picture of whale feeding habits, as well as their internal parasites.

Non-lethal research is increasing our understanding of the complexity of the marine food web.

More information

This page was last modified on 12 August 2010.