Whale of a rare species – arctic beluga – appeared off the coast of the United States. It has been observed at several locations in the Puget Sound, Washington state. Marine biologists are wondering why an animal is visiting. The last time the arctic beluga appeared there in the 1940s.
The first observations were made on Sunday, October 3. Arctic beluga (Delphinapterus leucas) was first spotted near Fox Island in the Puget Sound. The animal then moved to Point Defiance and then to Commencement Bay. The fourth cetacean sighting report came from West Seattle, and the fifth from the Bremerton Ship Yard naval port, said Michael Milstein, spokesman for the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Service (NOAA) for the US West Coast region.
Arctic Beluga – where did it come from off the coast of Washington State?
It is not known what made the whale so far from its home. Its natural habitat is the waters of the Arctic, but it is also true that it sometimes visits faraway places. In the 1960s, for example, it was seen in Bonn, Germany, where it reached the Rhine.
According to Paul Wade, a fishery biologist who works for NOAA at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center, there are several possible explanations for the current Belukha “outing”.
Wade, who studies the endangered population of this species on a daily basis in Cook Inlet Bay in Alaska, decided that the animal may be trying to explore a new habitat. Another potential cause: the whale may be hungry and looking for food. The third hypothesis is disease: the beluga may have accidentally poisoned itself with domoic acid, a naturally occurring neurotoxin produced by harmful algae blooms. One of the consequences of the action of substances is disruption of the part of the brain that is responsible for navigation. Wade also assessed that the whale – according to observations from a distance – did not appear to be sick.
If NOAA determines that it is safe to approach the animal, the researchers will likely try to swim out and photograph it up close. The photos should help determine if the individual belongs to the Cook Inlet population. Scratches, scars and other such marks on the bodies of cetaceans are cataloged. Thanks to this, it is possible to follow the fate of individual individuals.
Not only the appearance of an animal in this region is remarkable. The fact that the animal was swimming alone was also surprising. This species is known for its gregarious way of life – if they go on the road, it is most often in a small group.
As Wade added, the observed beluga is most likely an adult, which is indicated by its color. Newborn individuals are gray and become snow-white as they mature. Beluchy makes characteristic noises resembling chirping or whistling. Most often they eat fish of very different species – from smelt, flounder, to Pacific cod. In their native waters, they often hunt in packs.
Some of the behaviors of belugas may be surprising, such as the fact that they tend to pop their entire head out of the water to breathe. Like killer whales, they hunt using echolocation, which allows them to track down fish even in muddy water. Orcs are their natural enemies.
The last time he appeared there was 80 years ago
While the sight of a beluga off the Washington state coast is extremely rare, that does not mean that there have been no similar encounters in the past. In April 1940, a beluga was observed near Point Defiance.
Local agencies for the protection of marine species are constantly on the alert, asking the people of the region to notify them as soon as the beluga is spotted again.
Main photo source: CNN