Tagged Pilot whale: 8 week update

Jul 08, 2011 2 comments By


An adult male pilot whale continues to send movement and dive data from its satellite linked transmitter.

The whale originally stranded as part of a group of about 23 whales on May 5th, and it was released on May 7th along with another tagged male. The other whale’s transmitter stopped abruptly on May 23rd

The transmitters were attached to provide movement and dive data, which are not well known for this species. This information helps researchers evaluate the condition of the whales after release.

Had it been necessary, the location data would have enabled a rapid response had the whales re-stranded.

The tagged whale has now moved about 3560 total miles (5697 km) from the stranding site at Cudjoe Key, in the Florida Keys.

It first traveled north with the Gulf Stream to an area off South Carolina, before heading south and east past the Bahamas into the Caribbean.

For the past week or so, it has moved off the eastern tip of Cuba, in the Windward Passage.

The whale has been making deeper and longer dives in this area.

On occasion, the whale is making dives to several hundred meters, and remaining down for more than 30 minutes. These are among the deepest and longest dives ever reported for this species.

The duration of the track to date, the movement patterns that make use of habitat types frequented by pilot whales, and the deep and long dives suggest that this whale is doing well following its release.

These findings are in sharp contrast to stranded pilot whales SDRP scientists tagged and released from stranding sites in Florida in the 1970s. Some of those whales re-stranded within days to weeks after release.

The transmitter on the whale is powered by a single AA battery, is expected to provide data for 2-3 months in total.

This tagging effort and follow-up monitoring is supported by the NOAA Prescott Grants program. The satellite-linked transmitters were attached to the whales’ dorsal fins by SDRP Director Dr. Randall Wells, at the request of NOAA Fisheries. The maps are provided by the Satellite Tracking and Analysis Tool. The tagged whale is being monitored by Dr. Wells.


Related posts:

back to top


About the author

Blair Irvine, PhD, is retired and manages the SDRP website, serves as President of the non-profit Dolphin Biology Research Institute, and he volunteers as otherwise needed. He started the SDRP in 1970 with then-high school student Randy Wells. Blair led the research into the late-1970’s when Randy took over. After that, Blair's non-dolphin career was in the area of human behavioral health. With NIH support, much of his research was involved Internet interventions and training programs. His graduate degrees are in Zoology, Exercise Physiology, and Health Education.

2 Responses to “Tagged Pilot whale: 8 week update”

  1. Blair Irvine says:

    Not yet, but there’s one in the works.

  2. Katie says:

    Is there a scientific paper produced on this tagging effort?

Leave a Reply