Clark concludes that he and other researchers have been thinking about whale herds at the wrong scales, which has been constrained by the limitations of their recording and visual observation abilities. “Suddenly you realize that the whale’s sense of scale is ocean basin sized —one song note is 20 miles long and can illuminate the entire basin,?he says.
Clark has observed that the distribution of singers is closely matched to the distribution of zooplankton, and suspects that shifts in singer distribution coincide with shifts in food distribution. Now, he is studying reactions of whales to sound pollution, tracking how whales move away or go quiet as human activities enter an area. Every decade the amount of noise is doubling. “Whales have very traditional feeding grounds and their migratory routes along coastlines have become incredibly noisy, urbanized habitats,?Clark explains. “Acoustic smog is shrinking their world.?/p>
The Whale in the Coal Mine ?Cataloging Ocean Pollution
Roger Payne and Scott McVay were the first to discover that humpback whales sing—and Payne speculated that whales might communicate across oceans. Clark and others have confirmed and expanded upon Roger Payne’s early work. Today Payne is pioneering a new frontier in whale research ?he is creating a map of global ocean pollution based on skin samples from whales.
“Our goal is to determine how badly contaminated oceanic fish are with persistent organic pollutants (POP’s),?says Payne, “What we are working on may be the worst public health crisis that humanity has ever faced. That’s because 70% of all humanity (4.2 billion people) depends on seafood as its primary source of animal protein, and if the fish are seriously polluted, they may soon be unsafe to eat.?/p>
Payne reasoned that by taking biopsy samples from whales and analyzing their contaminant loads, he