Ocean Predators

To study the movements of animals across the African Plain, you could just watch the lions. Where they go is where their prey goes. Up next a scientist describes a project to track predators in the deep ocean.

Randy Kochevar, a scientist with the Monterey Bay Aquarium. He’s a principle investigator of TOPP, the Tagging of Pacific Pelagics project. TOPP hopes to answer one of the basic questions about life on earth — what lives in the pelagic, or deep-ocean, wilderness of the North Pacific.

The long-range movements of large marine animals — whales, sharks, and albacore tuna — until now have been mostly invisible. Kochevar told us that what little we’ve learned so far about their migrations has come mainly from tracking schools of tuna — the occasional whale sighting — or from thousands of years of fishing. TOPP tags the animals with little microcomputers that have the processing power of a palmpilot.

Kochevar: And we’re able to attach these little computers on to these animals. And they have sensors that are collecting data from the environment. And using those data, we can actually put together a picture of where this animal went and what its behavior was — how warm or cold was the water it was swimming through, how deep was it diving, and where on Earth was it, what was its geographic location.

Kochevar hopes to get a more complete picture of the areas of the ocean critical to the survival of large ocean predators.

Next: Ocean Guilds


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