Belugas and Narwhals: Application of New Technology to Whale Science in the Arctic

  • Randall R. Reeves
  • David J. St. Aubin
Keywords: Beluga whales, Science, Research, Instruments, Animal physiology, Animal behaviour, Narwhals, Genetics, Telemetry, Animal distribution, Animal tagging, Satellite communications, Somerset Island waters, Nunavut, Cunningham Inlet, Peel Sound, Viscount Melville Sound, N.W.T./Nunavut, Canadian Beaufort Sea, Tremblay Sound, Baffin Bay-Davis Strait, Hudson Bay, Melville Bugt, Greenland, Alaskan Beaufort Sea


... In the course of the research reported in this issue, there have been few observations of tagged whales after release, and this may be unavoidable, given the remoteness, harshness, and darkness of Arctic field conditions. However, on those occasions when there has been follow-up, the results have been informative and useful. For example, observations of scarred tissue on the backs of previously tagged white whales appeared to confirm the supposition that tagging has no lingering effect on animal health or behaviour .... Changes in blood constituents of animals recaptured within a few weeks after tagging ... are about what one would expect, given that some tissue damage and stress are inevitably associated with capture and tagging procedures. ... The ten studies published in this special issue are pieces of a much larger puzzle. Stock- and even site-specific studies have been typical for beluga research, largely because of management concerns. Findings, therefore, are often reported in what seems like a fragmentary manner, and this is reflected in the somewhat miscellaneous nature of the present compilation as well. Eventually, we expect a unified picture to emerge for both the beluga and the narwhal. Until it does, this collection of papers should be seen as one more in a series of benchmarks, each of which helps to elucidate what is known about the whales, the tools available for studying them, and questions that remain to be addressed. ...