The first detailed study of the effects of naval sonar on whales shows that whales flee from prime feeding sites when navy tests begin – leaving them famished when they finally return.
Blainville’s beaked whales, Mesoplodon densirostris
, use echolocation clicks to track down prey in the lightless depths they hunt in, a kilometre or more below the surface.
To find out whether the whales are disturbed by naval sonar operations, Peter Tyack
of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Massachusetts, and colleagues tracked the activity of Blainville’s beaked whales during exercises at a US navy centre near Andros Island, Bahamas. The area encompasses an underwater canyon that is a prime hunting ground for these deep-diving whales.
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