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Toronto, Sep 1 (Canadian-Media): ‘Out of the Depths: The Blue Whale Story’, an original exhibition of Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) in Toronto, Ontario runs till September 4 with detailed description of tragic death of nine rare blue whales trapped in ice in 2014 off the coast of Newfoundland (which along with Labrador forms one of the territories of Canada), media reports said.
Opened in 1914 ROM, reportedly Canada's largest museum, houses a collection of more than six million objects and specimens, presented reportedly in 40 gallery and exhibition spaces to showcase art, culture, and nature from around the world and across all ages.
Reported to be Canada’s renowned field research institute, ROM leading internationally in new and original findings in biodiversity, palaeontology, earth sciences, the visual arts, material culture and archaeology helps in global understanding of the artistic, cultural and natural world.
This exhibition is a collaborative project led by the ROM’s Dr. Mark Engstrom, Senior Curator and Deputy Director of Collections and Research, with colleagues Burton Lim, Assistant Curator of Mammalogy; Jacqueline Miller, Mammalogy Technician; Oliver Haddrath, Ornithology Technician; Dave Ireland, Managing Director of ROM Biodiversity, and Gerry De Iuliis, Lecturer in the Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at the University of Toronto.
In May 2014, a small ROM team reportedly travelled to Newfoundland to salvage a Blue Whale that had washed ashore.
This unfortunate event presented ROM with a unique opportunity to study Blue Whales, one of marine mammals, listed as endangered species under Schedule 1 of the federal Species at Risk Act by which federal government is reportedly committed to prevent wildlife species from becoming extinct by providing measures for the legal protection of wildlife species and the conservation of their biological diversity.
A reportedly low number of approximately 20,000 blue whales are present in the world, with the northwestern Atlantic Population being the lowest at only between 200 and 400 whales.
The loss of nine whales represented reportedly about three percent of the Northwest Atlantic’s blue whale population.
Dr Jack Lawson, a researcher with the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) in St John’s, Newfoundland had reportedly flown over that particular area where the tragedy had occurred and confirmed that nine blue whales were dead in the icebergs and several others were found alive and swimming.
Blue whales usually were reported to sink when they die, but this time two of the dead blue whales washed ashore in Trout River and Rocky Harbour, Newfoundland and Labrador.
Although the beached whales caused a global alarm, the DFO and ROM were reportedly discussing the ways to recover these whales for scientific research and educational purposes.
“Salvaging the blue whale in Newfoundland was a once in a lifetime experience,” Lin was quoted by media.
The cause of death of these whales could not be found.
Not being able to determine the cause of death of these nine whales, researchers at ROM reportedly began to contemplate what these whales usually feed upon and found out that they feed exclusively on tiny crustaceans called krills.
During the temperature rise in late winter and early spring, reportedly huge swarms of krill found in the Gulf of St. Lawrence -- outlet of the North American Great Lakes via the Saint Lawrence River into the Atlantic Ocean -- blue whales track these krills in search of food.
Association between krills and the blue whales was another research study to find out the cause of death and would be covered in another series of this story.
The winter of 2014 was reportedly very cold with heavy build-up of ice in the Gulf.
There is a possibility, reflected the researchers, that Blue whales in the area were feeding when ice shifted just north of where two currents passed through the Cabot Strait, which is between Cape Ray, Newfoundland and Cape North, Cape Breton Island.
It was presumed by ROM researchers that the nine blue whales, spotted in March, were trapped under the ice and consequently died.
The reported damage to the skulls of the two whales that were found on the beach and were salvaged on the west coast of Newfoundland, suggesting that ice had crushed them.
But The researchers could not determine at that time if skulls of these whales were crushed by ice before or after their death.
The research done with other studies to discuss this would be covered in the other series of this story.
Their loss reportedly represented about three percent of the Northwest Atlantic’s blue whale population; in Canada that’s almost equivalent to the human population of Saskatchewan.
Blue whales usually sink when they die, but during this occurrence two of the blue whales washed ashore in Trout River and Rocky Harbour, Newfoundland and Labrador which provided the ROM researchers with another unique opportunity for research and conservation which would be part of another series of this story.
"This was an opportunity for us, born of tragedy, to make something more of her life," Mark Engstrom, Senior Curator and Deputy Director of Collections & Research was quoted by the media.
The results of the vast research on blue whales regarding their feeding behavior, the cause of the skull damages of the two blue whales that were washed ashore, global decline of the blue whale population and what is being done to protect them, biology of blue whales, the humongous size of their heart, how they communicate, and their evolution from land to sea, would be published in other series of this story along with other exhibits of blue whales in ROM.
(Reporting by Asha Bajaj)