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VIEWS: 8 PAGES: 23

									                     Whales and Dolphins in Oman

Dolphins and whales are abundant in the seas of Oman. They are
protected by the government, and by a well-established tradition,
fishermen rely on dolphins to locate tuna. The unique coastal structure
makes Oman an ideal environment for all - dolphins and whales, and
those who wish to enjoy their company. His majesty Sultan Qaboos of
Oman realized early on that dolphins and whales are in need of human
protection. He decreed laws on where and when fishing nets which pose
possible dangers can be laid out and prohibited whaling.
Both dolphins and tuna live on sardines. Tuna usually stay under the
surface of the water while feeding and are therefore invisible to fishermen
from a distance. Dolphins, however, keep much closer to the surface.
Their bows and jumps can be seen from large distances and enable the
fishermen to locate their prey: tuna. Fishermen in Oman therefore have an
invested interest in the protection of dolphins.

A major reason for the abundance of dolphins and whales in the coastal
area around Muscat is the specific coastal structure. The drop off of the
ocean bed that occurs on the edges of the continental shelf is very close to
the shore of Muscat. Usually the first deep ocean bed drop-off is about 20
km away from the coast. In Oman the first drop-off is about 1km off the
coast. The drop off brings marine life, which is normally found deep in
the ocean, very close to the shore - an observer's delight. For more
information on whales, dolphins and how to interact with them please see
our whale and dolphin guide and our 'All you wanted to know about
whales and dolphins in Oman' section.


                       Tooth Cetaceans of Oman


                            Spinner Dolphins
      Description: Spinner dolphins are usually about 2 m long and
      weigh from55 to 75 kg. Their bodies have a three-part colour
      pattern: Their backs are dark grey or black, their sides a pearl- grey
and their chins and bellies are light grey or even white. Males are
generally larger than the females. Spinner dolphins are slender in build
and have long, thin beaks to which the distinct forehead slopes gently.
Their beaks have a diagnostic black tip. Their dorsal fins vary in shape
with age and geographical distribution. They are relatively small and can
lean towards the fluke be curved or be completely triangular. The flippers
are long and pointed and a dark stripe links them to the eyes and beak.

Typical be haviour: In Oman Spinners travel in large groups of a
thousand individuals or more. They are most often seen in schools of two
hundred or less. They are often found in association with common
dolphins, spotted dolphins and yellow fin tuna. Spinner dolphins can be
very playful and curious and they often bow-ride. They are dramatically
acrobatic and often perform somersaults, high spinning leaps and other
aerial movements and can perform jumps up to three meters in the air.
Spinning on their longitudinal axis is their trademark. Research has not
come to any definite explanation this behaviour. By the means of
splashing or landing on the water after the jumps the spinner dolphins
might dislodge parasites on their bodies, they might use the jumps as a
means for communication or just display playful behaviour through it.
The groups found off Muscat are probably year round residents.
Recognition at sea: Spinners can be identified by the shape of the dark
area on the dorsal cape and the long black-tipped snout . From behind
they might be mistaken for common dolphins, but they are smaller and
their three-part colour pattern (tripartite) should enable easy
differentiation. As their name implies spinning in the air is characteristic
of this species.

Habitat, distribution: Spinner dolphins are found both offshore and
inshore in tropical and subtropical waters worldwide. They often occur
within 2 or 3 kilometres off the shore in Oman and are frequently to be
seen between Fahal Island and Bandar Khayran and often associate with
common dolphins.

Life span: 15-25 years.

Predators: Sharks, false killer whales and killer whales, tuna fisheries.

Estimated curre nt population worldwide: Unknown.

An Omani Spinner Dolphin? In the Muscat area there have been sightings
of groups of spinner dolphins that seem smaller, darker and less inclined
to spin that the more typical tripartite individuals. They often have pink
bellies, a feature that confuses them with juveniles of the more typical
form. These dolphins bear some resemblance to dwarf spinner dolphins of
the tropical and subtropical Atlantic. It is unclear yet whether these
dolphins represent a separate population or even race, or are just a
morphological variation.




                          Common Dolphins
      Description: Common dolphins are fine, slender and streamlined in
      build. They can be anything from 1,7 to 2,6 meters in length and
      usually weigh less than 75kg. Males are slightly larger than females.
Depending on the geographical location, common dolphins can have a
long or a short beak. Although the common dolphin might vary in size
and shape, it is easily recognizable a crisscross, hourglass colour pattern.
The back is dark brown, black, grey or purplish from the top of the head
to the tail and takes on the shape of a 'V' on the flanks below the dorsal
fin. Behind the dorsal fin the flanks are a light grey and forward of the
dorsal fin they are a creamy white. Its belly is a paler white and extends
higher up the flanks than in most other dolphins. The tail is grey and
darkens into black at the flukes. Around the eyes the common dolphin has
large dark circles, which are connected by a dark line, which runs across
the beak. Another black stripe runs from the flippers to the middle of the
lower jaw. The dorsal fin of the common dolphin is tall and triangular
with a pointed tip. It is located near the middle of the back and is black-
to-light grey in colour with a black border. The flippers are long, thin and
slightly curved. The flukes are thin, concave and pointed at the tips with a
slight medial notch.

Typical be haviour: Common dolphins are very social. They have been
reported in groups of many thousands, although units of 10-500 are more
usual. Occasionally common dolphins swim with other species of
dolphins such as bottlenose dolphins, spinner dolphins or spotted
dolphins. They are a fast swimming and active species and often perform
aerial movements at the surface: They bow-ride, breach, somersault,
flipper-slap and lob-tail and tail-slap. In Oman multiple jumps of multiple
dolphins are common, often in spectacular synchrony. They are highly
vocal and can often be heard above the water as they play. They often
bow-ride boats.
Recognition at sea: Common dolphins can be identified by their colour
pattern. When in mixed groups the common dolphins tend to stay at the
outskirts of the group.

Habitat, distribution: Common dolphins are found in warm temperate,
subtropical and tropical waters worldwide. They apparently prefer water
temperatures ranging from 10 to 28 degrees centigrade. They can be seen
fairly regularly in the coastal and near-shore area of Muscat. They
generally inhabit the entire coast of Oman. Common dolphins do not
seem to migrate. In some areas they are present all year round.

Life span: 30 years.

Estimated curre nt population worldwide: Unknown.


                       Pantropical Spotted Dolphin
     Description: The pantropical spotted dolphin is a small species with
     a slender, but robust body and a long narrow beak. It can weigh
     from 90 -115 kg and can reach 2,4 meters in length. They have a
dark grey dorsal cape and pale grey undersides. In between these two
areas they may have a grey zone on their flanks. Their dark areas are
covered with light spots and their light areas are covered with dark spots.
Young animals might have no spots at all though. Their lips can be white,
although they sometimes have dark spots. A black patch circles their eye.
Their dorsal fins are curved and located at about half their body length.

Typical be haviour: Schools of pantropical spotted dolphins range from a
few individuals to thousands of animals. In Oman they mix with common
and spinner dolphins. Although they do not spin, they are acrobatic
animals, and may bow-ride, leap to great heights and lob-tail.

Recognition at sea: The pantropical spotted dolphin can be distinguished
from the spinner dolphin by its spots, shorter beak and colour pattern. In
Oman the pantropical spotted dolphin is slightly larger and stockier than
the spinner dolphin.

Habitat, distribution: Pantropical Spotted dolphins are found worldwide
in deep tropical and subtropical waters. They are seen infrequently in the
Muscat area of Oman.

Life span: Approximately 45 years.

Predators: Sharks, killer whales, tuna, trawlers.

Estimated curre nt population worldwide: Unknown.


                            Striped Dolphins
      Description: Striped dolphins have slender bodies with narrow
      heads and long beaks. They can grow up to 2,5 m and weigh up to
      160 kg. Striped dolphins are bluish grey and white in colour. Some
of them have pink bellies. The flanks are pale grey, the bellies pink-white,
and the flippers black. As the name implies they have a number of dark
stripes on their body, running from the eye to the anus and to the back.
they often have a dark patch around the eye. the markings vary from
individual to individual and possibly between groups of striped dolphins
of different geographical distribution. Their foreheads slope smoothly
down to their long beaks, which are separated from their foreheads by a
crease. Their dorsal fins are tall and rounded. Their flippers and tail
flukes are small and slender.

Typical be haviour: Striped dolphins move in groups of 100 to 500
individuals although there have been sightings of large gatherings of up to
a few thousand. They are a very active species and are very fas t
swimmers sometimes reaching speeds of 8 to 14 km per hour. They often
jump high above the surface, do somersaults forwards and backwards and
bowride. They often dive for 10 minutes while feeding. Some groups of
striped dolphins are known to migrate, while others seem to be resident in
certain areas.

Recognition at Sea: This dolphin lives in deep tropical, subtropical and
warm temperate waters worldwide off- and inshore. Habitat, distribution:
This species occurs in warm temperate and tropical waters offshore
worldwide. They are likely to be seen off Oman.

Life span: Approximately 50 to 60 years.

Predators: Sharks, killer whales, false killer whales, pygmy killer
whales.

Estimated curre nt population worldwide: Unknown.


                        Rough Toothed Dolphin
      Description: This species has a robust body, similar to the
      bottlenose dolphin, and can reach up to 2 - 2.5 m in length and
      weigh up to 150 kg in adulthood. The body is streamlined with a
forehead that slopes gently to the long beak. The dolphins derive their
name from the rough texture of their teeth, which have fine, vertical
grooves on them. The rough toothed dolphin has unusually large flippers
and flukes. Rough toothed dolphins are dark grey to bluish black on the
back and light grey on the undersides, flanks and the tail. Lips and jaws
are white as are the scars and scratches they have from shark attacks.

Typical be haviour: Little is known about this species. Rough toothed
dolphins usually swim in groups of 10 to 50 individuals. However,
groups can be as large as 100 animals. This species mixes with other
dolphin species. They do not bow-ride often, but are well known for their
"surfing" behaviour during which the dolphins swim at a high speed with
their chins above the surface. In captivity this species produce offspring
with bottlenose dolphins. In the wilderness these hybrids are rare, but
have been observed too.

Recognition at Sea: Rough toothed dolphins can be mistaken for spotted,
spinner and bottlenose dolphins. However, their head is very distinctive.
Habitat, distribution: Rough toothed dolphins occur in deep tropical,
subtropical and warm temperate waters offshore worldwide.

Life span: Unknown.

Estimated curre nt population worldwide: Unknown.


                         Bottle Nosed Dolphins
       Description: These dolphins have gained large popularity due to the
       television series 'Flipper'. They are the largest of the dolphins and
       have highly variable, broad dorsal fins. Some individuals in Oman
reach 3 m in length and can weigh from 90 - 600 kg. Other physical
characteristics can vary: Their dorsal surfaces can vary in colour from
dark blue to brown- grey, and usually fade to a pale grey at the flanks.
Their backs are white-pink. The tips of the snouts are usually white. The
tail flukes and the edges of the flippers are grey-black in colour. There
can be dark lines reaching from melon to eye and eye to flipper.
However, sometimes bottlenose dolphins display entirely different colour
patterns. Ochre brown individuals have been seen near Bandar Khayran.
Larger adults often bear white or pinkish scars from fights with other
individuals. The bottle-shaped beak can be rather short and slender or
broader and more stubby depending on its body size. Their heads are
fairly robust with rounded foreheads, also called 'melon'. The beaks and
melons are separated by a clear crease.

Typical be haviour: Bottlenose dolphins have been reported individually,
in groups of 10 -100 inshore and of several hundreds offshore. In Oman
they are usually to be seen in groups of about 10-50 individuals. They are
fast, powerful swimmers, acrobatic and playful in nature and often bow-
ride and leap along vessels.
Recognition at Sea: Bottlenose dolphins are not likely to be confused
with other species of dolphins. They are bulkier and usually darker in
colour than Indo-pacific humpback dolphins. Their snouts are shorter and
melons more defined than those of rough-toothed dolphins.

Habitat, distribution: Bottlenose dolphins can be found in cold
temperate and tropical seas worldwide. Preferring waters of less than 30
m in depth, they occur regularly in coastal waters and some populations
might even migrate in response to changing environmental conditions.
They are fairly common around Oman and are likely to be seen close to
shore anywhere along the coast. Both, the bottlenose dolphin and the
Indo-pacific humpback dolphin are the species most likely to be seen
from land in Oman. Their apparent absence from the Musandam area is
interesting and open to speculation.

Life span: Bottlenose dolphins can live for up to 40 years.

Estimated curre nt population worldwide: Unknown, but locally
common.


                           Dwarf sperm Whale
      Description: The dwarf sperm whale is the smallest of all whales.
      Both sexes can reach a length of up to 2,7 m and weigh up to 270
      kg. It resembles the pygmy sperm whale but its snout is even more
blunt and square, and its dorsal fin is larger. It has a porpoise- like form,
with a blowhole positioned on the left side of the forehead, and a shark-
like mouth with large, sharp, curved teeth in the lower jaw. Occasionally,
small non-functional teeth occur in the upper jaw. Its colour is bluish-
grey with a pinkish-white belly, which may have pink or purple spots.

Typical be haviour: Dwarf sperm whales are often seen in groups of less
than ten animals. Pods consist mostly of females, calves and sexually
immature males. Their blow is low and indistinct. They are reported to be
fairly passive animals, which often float around on the surface of the
water close to shore for 15 to 20 minutes at a time. They are shy and
typically avoid boats. If startled, dwarf sperm whales give off a reddish-
brown fluid before diving.

Recognition at Sea: Dwarf sperm whales resemble pygmy sperm whales
in size, stature and colour and behaviour and are easily confused with
them. They might also be mistaken for Risso's dolphins, pygmy killer
whales or melon-headed whales.
Habitat, distribution: Dwarf sperm whales live in both tropical and
temperate seas. They are often sighted in coastal waters and have been
seen on several occasions near Bandar Jissah. Although dwarf sperm
whales spend most of their time at the surface of the water near the shore,
they search for food such as small squid at great depths.

Life span: Unknown.

Estimated curre nt population worldwide: Unknown.


                    Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphin
      Description: Indo-pacific humpback dolphins can grow up to
      approximately 2.8 meters in length and weigh about 290 kg in
      weight. They are brownish-grey in colour, with a lighter belly,
which is sometimes pink. The belly can be speckled and sometimes bears
scars from shark bites. These dolphins have robust bodies with long,
narrow beaks and white tipped jaws, large melons and well-rounded
flippers. The dorsal fin rises from a fleshy hump and is often very
prominent. They have unique way of surfacing in that its beak always
emerges first. Their tail stocks are thick and have distinct keels.

Typical be haviour: Indo-pacific humpback dolphins are generally found
in small groups of between 2 and 7 individuals. Groups can be as large as
25 animals and have sometimes been as large as 100 individuals in
Oman.. They are mostly found in shallow coastal water of up to 15 meters
in depth where they feed. They tend to be shy and sedate, and are not
easily approached by boat or underwater.

Recognition at Sea: Indo-pacific humpback dolphins are easily identified
by the distinctive hump on their backs and their small backward curving
dorsal fins. Their white tipped jaws are often clearly visible when they
surface. The shape of their heads resembles that of the bottlenose dolphin,
but their snouts are usually more elongate and their foreheads less
distinct.

Habitat, distribution: Indo-pacific humpback dolphins live in the
shallow coastal waters of the Indian and western Pacific Oceans. They
prefer water of less than 20 m in depth with shallow banks and
embayment, river channels and muddied waters. Off the coast of Oman
they are one of few species, which are best seen from land. They have a
curious and unexplained distribution, occurring around Musandam and
south of Ra's al Hadd, but not in between, therefore you are unlikely to
see them in the Muscat area.

Life span: Unknown.

Estimated curre nt population worldwide: Unknown.


                             Risso's Dolphin
      Description: Risso's dolphins measure between 2.8-4 m in length
      and weigh up to 500 kg. Males are slightly longer than females.
      Risso's have robust bodies that become fairly slender behind the tall,
curved and pointed dorsal fin. They have been described as tadpole-
shaped. Their heads are blunt with large melons, lacking distinct beaks.
Their mouths slant upwards. The flippers are long, narrow and curved.
The dorsal fin is set at the mid-point of the body. The tail flukes are dark
and broad. Risso's are dark brown or black with numerous white scratches
and scars, which give the animal a lighter colour with age, since those
scratches and scars accumulate with age. Fins, flippers and flukes are
often a darker grey than the body. Their face is pale grey and on their
bellies they have a white pattern.

Typical be haviour: Risso's dolphins are usually found in groups of 3 to
50 animals, but groups might be much larger (500). Their behaviour
towards other Risso's is quite rough. They slap, splash and might strike
other individuals and may account for the heavy scarring. They are
acrobatic and often spy-hop and bow-ride or roll on the surface. Being a
fast moving species they breach, spy-hop and bow-ride often. Risso's dive
deep for 10 minutes or more and feed on squid.

Recognition at Sea: Risso's dolphin is quite easy to recognize at sea due
to their distinctive colour pattern and blunt heads. At a distance they
might be confused with bottlenose dolphins, but their dorsal fin is taller
and they are lighter in colour than bottlenose dolphins. False killer whales
might bear some resemblance to them, but they lack the distinctive colour
pattern.

Habitat, distribution: Risso's dolphins occur in tropical and temperate
seas offshore and occasionally inshore worldwide. Risso's are most
commonly seen well offshore in Oman, though large groups of them have
also been observed near Muscat.

Life span: At least 20 years.

Predators: Killer whales, sharks and possibly false killer whales

Estimated curre nt population worldwide: At least 80-90,000.


                         Cuvier's Beaked Whale
      Description: Cuvier's beaked whales have slender, medium sized
      bodies, which can be up to 7 m in length. They have a shorter upper
      jaw than lower, in which males have two teeth, which are clearly
visible. In females these teeth are hidden in the gums. The protruding jaw
however creates the unusual sloping forehead by which this whale can be
identified. The small dorsal fin is placed far down the body and the flukes
are small. Cuvier's beaked whales are usually brown, often with darker
backs and lighter heads and bellies in Oman. In other areas of the world
the whale can be grey or even bluish. They are marked by scars and oval
spots, which are often caused by other individuals.

Typical be haviour: Little is known about this species since Cuvier's
beaked whales are shy and keep away from boats and humans. Most of
the information available is gathered from stranded individuals. If
observed in the wild, Cuvier's beaked whales mostly move in groups of 2
- 10 individuals. These whales make deep dives, lasting up to 30 minutes,
to find prey.

Recognition at Sea: This whale is unlikely to be confused with any other
whale due to its sloping forehead and protruding lower jaw. Habitat,
distribution: Cuvier's beaked whales live in all oceans worldwide.
However, they have rarely been observed in Oman.

Life span: Unknown.

Estimated curre nt population worldwide: Unknown.


                           False Kille r Whales
      Description: False killer whales are large and lean. They are about
      4,5 to 6 m long and weigh from 1 to 2 tons. Females are slightly
      smaller than males. False killer whales have round heads and no
beak. The upper jaws overhang the lower jaws and their mouths are
curved upwards as if in a smile. From behind the eye a crease leads to the
tip of the head. Their flippers are located near the head and are fairly
short, narrow and curved in a way, which resembles a bent elbow. Their
dorsal fins are located centrally and have rounded tips. The flukes are
small in relation to the body. Their body colour is grey or black, except
for occasional lighter grey or white marks on the head and throat.

Typical be haviour: False killer whales form herds of 10 to several
hundreds of animals. They are social and often associate with other kinds
of dolphins. They are fast swimmers, are playful and often bow-ride,
breach, lobtail and jump so that the entire body is lifted out of the water.
They frequently open their mouths so that entire rows of massive teeth
are visible. Often large numbers of False Killer whales strand.

Recognition at Sea: False killer whales can be mistaken for pygmy killer
whales and pilot whales, but the size and shape of their heads and flippers
differ.

Habitat, distribution: False killer whales live in all oceans of the world.
They prefer deep tropical and subtropical and warm waters, although
some animals have been seen in cold waters. They occur mainly in deep
waters.

Life span: Unknown.

Estimated curre nt population worldwide: Unknown.


                              Killer Whales
      Description: The killer whale is the largest and most powerful
      member of the dolphin family. It can reach ten meters in length and
      weigh up to 10 tons. Killer whales have a stocky body, with a
rounded head and an indistinct beak. There are 10-12 pairs of large teeth
in each jaw. One of their most distinct features is the large dorsal fin
situated in the middle of the back. In males this fin can be up to 1.8 m
high. In females the fin is only about half that size and more rounded.
Females are considerably smaller than males. Their flippers are large,
broad, rounded and paddle shaped and are especially well noticeable
when the whale leaps or spy hops. They can be up to 1/5 of the body
length in males. The tail flukes are concave and often have pointed tips.
They are separated by a deep- notch. Killer whales have a striking black
and white colour combination although uniform black or white animals
have been seen.

Typical be haviour: Killer whales live and travel in extended family
groups of up to 100 animals. Family groups usually consist of between 3-
25 individuals. These groups are called pods and consist of adult females,
juveniles, calves and adult males with a highly developed social
hierarchy. These pods are stable from one generation to the next and its
members usually stay together for life. Killer whales are acrobatic. They
frequently breach, jump, slap their tails and surf. Killer whales are
inquisitive and approachable. Young whales are playful and use objects
such as seaweed for their amusement. Within the group there is little
aggression. Killer whales rub against each other or hard surfaces for
comfort and to remove dead skin. Mass strandings are rare, but have been
known to occur. Different groups vary in their vocalisations.

Recognition at Sea: Killer whales are easily identified by their colour
pattern and their huge triangular dorsal fin. The female and juvenile can
be confused with Risso's dolphin and the false killer whale when at a
distance.Their blow is a low foggy cloud.

Habitat, distribution: Killer whales inhabit all oceans and seas
worldwide. They are very adaptable to almost any conditions and appear
in both the open sea and coastal waters. They occur less in waters furthest
from land and those, which are not very productive. The degree of ice
cover limits polar distribution and they do not normally migrate from
warm to cold waters. Killer whales are occasionally seen in the area
around Oman.

Food and Feeding: Killer whales have a reputation for being fearsome
and versatile predators. They are known as the 'Wolves of the Sea'. Their
diet is very variable consisting of seals, fish, turtles, squid, sea-birds and
other whales. Killer whales often hunt in teams, which improves their
hunting success. Hunting normally occurs during dives of less than 100
m, with members of the pod cooperating in keeping the prey at or near the
surface. Fish might be forced into areas where they can be captured more
easily. Migrating killer whales primarily feed on marine mammals,
whereas resident whales feed mainly on fish. However, killer whales have
been seen to associate with other mammals such as Minke whales and
other small cetaceans with no predatory intent by the killer whales and no
apparent fear or intent of flight by the other cetaceans.

Life span: Between 60-90 years. Females have a longer lifespan than
males.

Estimated curre nt population worldwide: At least 1,000,000.




                             Sperm Whale
     This page is under construction and will be online shortly.



                       Baleen Cetaceans of Oman

Baleen cetaceans (Myscticetes) have baleen and lacking teeth. The baleen
are horny plates hanging from the whale's upper jaw. This baleen consists
of a fibrous material similar to our fingernails .The baleen whales are
filter feeders, using baleen plates to sieve out small planktonic organism
from the sea. It is curios that baleen whale, the largest animals in the sea,
feed on some of the smallest. They sizes vary from 6 m , pygmy right
whale to 30m long blue whale that weighs up to 200 tonnes and the
largest animal ever to have lived. A baleen whale has a symmetrical skull
and a double blowhole. Some baleen whales are thought to be more than
100 years old, so we may think of them having life-spans roughly as
humans. There are about 11 species of baleen whales.


                               Minke Whale
      Description: Minke whales are the smallest and most streamlined of
      the baleen whales. They reach about 8-9 meters in length and can
      weigh up to 10 tons. Females are slightly larger and heavier than
males. Minke whales are dark grey on their backs and lighter on their
bellies and their flanks might be lighter coloured as well. They have a
characteristic white stripe on each flipper (that is absent on the southern
Minke whales) whose size and shape varies individually. They have two
blowholes like all baleen whales behind which there might be grey
markings. The snout of minke whales is narrow, triangular, and pointed,
hence their nicknames "sharp- headed finner" and "little piked whale", and
contains 220 to 230 baleen plates. They have about 50 to 70 throat
grooves. Along the middle of their rostrum they have a single ridge. They
have long flippers which can be up to 1/8 of the Minke's body size and a
small dorsal fin in the latter third of their bodies. This fin is relatively tall,
pointed and upright. Their flippers are short and pointed too. Their flukes
are broad.

Typical be haviour: Minke whales travel singly or in small pods of 2 to 4
individuals, but when krill is abundant they can be found in large groups
of hundreds of individuals. They are very curious and approach boats.
They are fast swimmers, and can reach over 34 kmh in bursts. They can
leap completely out of the water when breaching. Minke whales dive for
up to 20 minutes, but don't show their flukes before going underwater.
Their blow is low and not very obvious even in calm conditions. The
migration of Minke whales is less well defined than that of other baleen
whales. They seem to undergo some migration, but possibly not over long
distances.

Recognition at Sea: whales can be identified by the white band or patch
on their flippers.

Habitat, distribution: Minke whales occur in all tropical, temperate and
polar waters worldwide. They seem to prefer cooler waters over tropical
ones, but are widely distributed in all seasons. Although they are not
coastal, they rarely venture further than 170 km away from the coast.
They do enter bays, fjords and inlets.

Life span: At least 20 years.

Predators: Killer whales.

Estimated curre nt population worldwide: Estimates range from
300,000 to 800,000.


                                Bryde's Whale
      Description: Bryde's whales can grow to 15 meters and weigh up to
      20 tons. Those seen in Oman usually reach a length of about 13 m.
      They are mottled bluish- grey and might have scars from cookie-
cutter shark bites. Their bodies and throats are white. They are slender
built with broad flat, 'V' shaped heads. There are three ridges leading
from the blowhole to the tip of the snout. Their dorsal fin is about 50 cm
high, sickle shaped and has a pointed tip. It is located in the last third of
the body. The flippers are small.

Recognition at Sea: Bryde's whales can be identified by the three ridges
which run from the blowhole to the tip of the snout. Other whales like the
Minke, blue whale, and fin whales only have one ridge. Their blow is
about 4 m tall and very thin.

Habitat, distribution: Bryde's whales occur in all warm temperate and
tropical waters worldwide. Bryde's whales do not seem to make long
migrations. There is speculation that Oman might be a breeding ground
since these whales are mostly seen in pairs of mother and calf in the
Muscat area between March and April.

Life span: Unknown.

Estimated curre nt population worldwide: Approximately 90,000.


                                 Sei Whale

      Description: Sei whales have relatively slender bodies which are
      between 12 and 15 m long. Males are slightly smaller than females.
      They are dark bluish grey with white bellies. Their head is long and
narrow with a pointed snout. On each side of the mouth these whales
have 300-380 plates of baleen and they have about 32-60 throat grooves.
Their dorsal fin is relatively small, sickle shaped and located near the
fluke. Also their flippers and flukes are relatively small. Sei whales are
amongst the fastest whales in the sea. Their throats have 38 to 56 deep
grooves.

Typical Behaviour: Very little is known about the social system of sei
whales. Usually they are found in groups ofup to 5 whales. Sei whales are
amongst the fastest of all whales and dolphins. They swim at up 50 kmh.

Recognition at Sea: Sei whales have a dorsal fin that is taller than that of
BrydeÕs whales and they have a single, central ridge at the rostrum
(while Bryde's whales have three).
Habitat, distribution: These whales are found offshore in all oceans
worldwide, except for the polar and tropical regions. In the summer sei
whales can be found in temperate and subpolar regions and in the winter
in subtropical waters.

Life span: 50 to 70 years

Estimated curre nt population worldwide: Endangered. 50, 000 to
70,000




                            Humpback Whale

      Description: Humpback whales are 11,5 to 20 meters long and
      weigh about 25 to 40 tons. Females are slightly larger and heavier
      than males. Humpback whales are black to blue-black in colour on
the upper side and mottled black and white on the belly. Each whale has
distinctive markings on it's fluke and flippers. These as well as the form
of fluke, flippers and dorsal fin are highly individual in each animal and
are useful for identification. These whales have robust bodies with very
long flippers. The flippers and lower jaws are covered by raised bumps
and lumps on which parasites may grow. The lumps on the lower jaw and
head contain a stiff hair each which might provide the whales with a
sense of touch. Humpback whales have relatively small dorsal fins
located in the last third of the body. They vary in size and form from
individual to individual. Their tail flippers are very long and their edges
are crimped.

Typical Behaviour: Humpback whales often occur in large, loose,
unstable groups of 10 to 100 animals, but they might move in smaller
units within these groups. Sightings are mostly of single or pairs of
animals. When breeding males can show very aggressive behaviour
towards other males in order to claim and maintain females. A feature of
courting is 'singing'. The songs can vary from 10 minutes to days in
length, with pauses only for breath. Humpbacks are very acrobatic and
perform a variety of aerial and underwater movements like breaching, spy
hopping, lob-tailing and tailslapping. Some Humpbacks in Alaska have
been seen rolling over icebergs in play. Humpback whales swim at a
maximum speed of 27 kmh, but usually move at 4 to 14 kmh. They can
dive up 120 and 150 m deep and up to 30 minutes in length, but dives for
less than 7 minutes are more common.

recognition at sea: Humpbacks are not easily confused with any other
species. They have a bushy blow, long flippers and raise their serrated
flukes before diving.

habitat, distribution: Humpback whales occur seasonally in all oceans
worldwide. They can be found in shallow coastal areas from the tropics to
the polar waters. All populations of Humpback whales undertake vast
regular migrations between breeding and feeding grounds. There is a
population in the Arabian Sea and Gulf of Oman, which may be resident
all year round though.

predators: Killer whales, sharks.

Life span: Approximately 40 -95 years. estimated current population
worldwide: Estimates vary between 5000 to 20 000 animals, vulnerable to
extinction. Fin Whale Balaenoptera musculus description: Fin whales are
the second largest animals. Adult fin whales can reach up to 27 m and
weigh up to 80 tons. Females are slightly larger than males. Fin whales
are dark grey to brownish black in colour on their backs and pale grey to
white on the throat and belly. Behind their heads at the side they may be
greyish-white. Their front baleen plates and their 50 to 100 throat grooves
are white on the right side and dark grey on the left side. The flippers and
flukes have a white underside. Fin whales bodies are very streamlined,
but slightly rounder than that of blue whales. Their heads have two
distinct blowholes and a ridge extending from the blowholes to the snout.
Their head is 'V' shaped with a distinct snout. They have about 260-480
baleen plates on each side of the jaw. The dorsal fin varies in shape. It can
be pointed or rounded, and also its angle is highly variable. It is located in
the last third of the body. Extending from the dorsal fin to the fluke is a
ridge which gives the whales their alternative name "Razorblade". The
flippers are relatively slender, short and pointed. The flukes have a
distinct notch in the middle. They are broad and slightly triangular.
typical behaviour: Occur in groups of 3-20 whales, but there can be larger
gatherings for feeding. Fin wales dive for 5 to 15 minutes to depth of 230
m. This is deeper than either blue or sei whales dive. Fin whales surface
with their blowholes first. They sometimes breach clear of the water
landing on the belly or side of their bodies and are fast swimmers capable
of reaching 41 kmh. recognition at sea: Fin whales are difficult to
distinguish from blue whales at sea. Blue whales heads have a uniform
colour pattern , whereas fin whales don't. Fin whales heads are also
narrower. Fin whales dorsal fins are larger in comparison to those of blue
whales. habitat, distribution: Fin whales occur worldwide, but are most
common in temperate waters and in the southern hemisphere. Like other
baleen whales they are migratory animals.

Recognition at Sea: Humpback whales can be distinguished from other
baleen whales by their long flippers and their robust bodies. They can
also be identified by the knobs they have on their snouts and heads. Their
flukes are also easily recognisable by their colour pattern and serrated
edges.

Predators: Killer Whales.

Life span: 85 to 90 years

Estimated curre nt population worldwide: Locally common, about
5000 to 20000 animals. vulnerable to extinction.


                                Fin Whale

      Description: Fin whales are the second largest animals. Adult fin
      whales can reach 27 m and weigh up to 80 tons. Females are slightly
      larger than males. Fin whales are dark grey to brownish black in
colour on their backs and pale grey to white on the throat and belly. Their
baleen plates and throat grooves are much paler on the right side and dark
on the left side. The flippers and flukes have a white underside. Fin
whales bodies are very streamlined, but slightly rounder than that of blue
whales. Their heads have two distinct blowholes and a ridge extending
from the blowholes to the snout. Their head is 'V' shaped with a distinct
snout. They have about 260-480 baleen plates on each side of the jaw.
The dorsal fin varies in shape. It can be pointed or rounded, and its angle
is highly variable. It is located in the last third of the body. Extending
from the dorsal fin to the fluke is a ridge which gives the whales their
alternative name "Razorblade". The flippers are relatively slender, short
and pointed. The flukes have a distinct notch in the middle. They are
broad and slightly triangular.

Typical Behaviour: Occur in groups of 3-20 whales, but there can be
larger gatherings for feeding. Fin wales dive for 5 to 15 minutes to depths
of over 500m. This is deeper than either blue or sei whales are known to
dive. Fin whales surface with their blowholes first. They sometimes
breach clear of the water landing on the belly or side of their bodies and
are fast swimmers capable of reaching 41 kmh.

Recognition at Sea: Fin whales are difficult to distinguish from blue
whales at sea. Blue whales heads have a uniform colour pattern , whereas
fin whales don't. Fin whales heads are also narrower and their dorsal fins
larger in comparison to those of blue whales.

Predators: Killer Whales.

Habitat, distribution: Fin whales occur worldwide, but are most
common in temperate waters and in the southern hemisphere. Like other
baleen whales they are migratory animals.

Life span: 85 to 90 years


                               Blue Whale

      Description: Blue whales are not only the largest whales, but also
      the largest living animals and the largest animals known in the
      history of life. They reach a length of over 30 meters and weigh
about 100 -120 tons. Females are slightly larger than males and animals
in the southern hemisphere are larger than those in the northern. The
largest recorded animal was 33 m long and the heaviest weighed 200
tons. Blue whale's bodies are slender and streamlined, but very broad and
long. They have broad and flat heads and snouts which, when viewed
from above, have a triangular shape with a flattened tip. About three-
quarters of the way along the back they have a small dorsal fin which is
about 0.4 m high and can vary in shape ranging from triangular to
rounded. Their tail flukes are large and notched, and their flippers are
long (up to 15 % of body length), slender and pointed. Their body colour
is a dark blue-grey dorsally and lighter on the back. However, large
variation has been reported ranging from mottled dark blue with few
lighter spots to a very heavily mottled light blue. Their heads are
uniformly blue but the back and sides are showing grey or white spots.
The undersides often become covered with microorganisms which give
the belly a yellowish tone. This has lead to the species nickname
"sulphurbottom". The undersides of the flippers are light greyish blue to
white. Each whale has about 540-790 coarse black baleen plates, each
about 1 m in length.

Typical Behaviour: Blue whales are usually encountered alone or in
pairs (mother and calf). In areas of high food concentration larger groups
have been reported. Occasionally they mix with fin whales. Blue whales
swim at speeds ranging from 2 - 6.5 km per hour while feeding and 22 -
48 km per hour while travelling, migrating or when being pursued. With
the speed of movement and the activity of the whale its blowing and
diving patterns vary. They usually dive for short amounts of time ranging
from 10 to 20 minutes. Dives of up to 30 minutes have been recorded. In
contrast to Humpback whales, Blue whales lift their flukes only slightly
as they begin a dive. Blue whales do not usually dive to more than 100 m
depth where they feed, but they can dive to 500 m. They have
occasionally been observed performing leaps. Blue whales are usually
migratory, moving towards the poles in summer for feeding and back
towards warmer waters in winter for breeding.

Recognition at Sea: They have mottled skin pigmentation and are fast
swimmers. They have a very tall and narrow blow (9m) and are often
very large.

Predators: Despite their size, there are documented cases of blue whales
being attacked by pods of killer whales.

Life span: Estimates reach from approximately 80 - 110 years.

Estimated curre nt population worldwide: 500 - 5,000 animals.
Endangered.

								
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