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-   -   Freshwater whales in Lake Superior? (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=371995)

stpauler 05-17-2006 11:23 AM

Freshwater whales in Lake Superior?
 
There's a thread in IMHO about kayaking in the Minnesota area and I posted a link suggesting the North Shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota. At the bottom of that link was "whale watching". I followed the link to here where it lists the sightings of whales in freshwater Lake Superior.

I had no idea that there are whales that were in there (or that would travel that far inland.)

According to this website, there are no freshwater whales in the world.
Quote:

Are there are any freshwater whales in the world and if so where?
There are no freshwater whales. The large Baleen and Toothed whales would die in freshwater for no other reason than insufficient food. They gather much more food from the ocean than they ever could from rivers and estuaries. But, there are a number of Dolphins that do live in freshwater.

In the tropical Indo-Pacific there are freshwater, estuarine and coastal species. These include the blind river dolphins, the Indus and Ganges susus of India and Pakistan, and the baiji of the Yangtze River in China. Other moderately similar forms exist in the rivers, estuaries and coastal waters of eastern South America. These include the boto or boutu, a river dolphin of the Amazon and Orinoco basins, and the franciscana, a river dolphin of the La Plata estuary which has extended its range along the coast southwards into the cooler waters of Argentina.
But according to this one, there are (but it doesn't list Lake Superior)
Quote:

Many people are surprised to discover there are whales living in some freshwater rivers. If you go to China you might see a Beiji (aka Chinese river dolphin). If you go to South America you might see a boto (aka Amazon river dolphin).
And this one switches it back a bit:
Quote:

6. Geochemical evidence
The earliest whales lived in freshwater habitats, but the ancestors of modern whales moved into saltwater habitats and thus had to adapt to drinking salt water. Since fresh water and salt water have somewhat different isotopic ratios of oxygen, we can predict that the transition will be recorded in the whales' skeletal remains - the most enduring of which are the teeth. Sure enough, fossil teeth from the earliest whales have lower ratios of heavy oxygen to light oxygen, indicating that the animals drank fresh water (Thewissen and others 1996). Later fossil whale teeth have higher ratios of heavy oxygen to light oxygen, indicating that they drank salt water. This absolutely reinforces the inference drawn from all the other evidence discussed here: the ancestors of modern whales adapted from terrestrial habitats to saltwater habitats by way of freshwater habitats.
So, should the North Shore Visitor's whale watching page be taken with a grain of salt or is it just a salty tale?

Lemur866 05-17-2006 11:44 AM

I believe these are beluga whales.

I found this source from google:

http://www.ehponline.org/members/200.../fox-full.html

Which says:
Quote:

The health of beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas) reflects the risks associated with life in the polluted St. Lawrence River and estuary downstream from the Great Lakes.

Entropia 05-17-2006 11:52 AM

Did you check the drop down menu bit on the first link you provided? It states that the whale watchers are amusing themselves. It's hard to read, but it also says very specifically:

Quote:

Do not take this too seriously.
I live in northern Wisconsin, and this seems pretty typical of the sense of humor in the North Woods. I personally own a bright pink sweatshirt that says "I visited the tropical paradise of Hayward, WI!"

stpauler 05-17-2006 11:59 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Entropia
Did you check the drop down menu bit on the first link you provided? It states that the whale watchers are amusing themselves. It's hard to read, but it also says very specifically:



I live in northern Wisconsin, and this seems pretty typical of the sense of humor in the North Woods. I personally own a bright pink sweatshirt that says "I visited the tropical paradise of Hayward, WI!"

:smack:

Thanks.

wevets 05-17-2006 12:03 PM

While there are freshwater dolphins in the Amazon and China, there are no whales which would be considered freshwater species. Whales do often venture into freshwater, and have no physiological need for salt water (there might be an association between some skin ailments and long freshwater exposure, but that connection isn't clear as far as I know). Beluga whales do venture into the St. Lawrence Seaway and may spend large amounts of time there, but Lake Superior is beyond their range. Beluga Whale Range and Habitat, and a range map is available here I doubt even vagrants could have been reported from Lake Superior, but it's possible - and now that I've said it, some Google-fu master will probably prove me wrong. :)

Athena 05-17-2006 12:07 PM

I've lived on the shores of Lake Superior for almost my whole life, as have my parents and grandparents. We've seen some big trout, but no whales :-)

Lemur866 05-17-2006 12:50 PM

Somehow, I missed the "Lake Superior" part of the OP. Next time, could you put that in bold, or a larger font, or maybe in red? Thanks.

Yeah. Beluga whales go up the St. Lawrence. But they're not gonna hop up Niagra falls like spawning salmon, right? So Lake Superior is right out.

Sunspace 05-17-2006 12:57 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Lemur866
Yeah. Beluga whales go up the St. Lawrence. But they're not gonna hop up Niagra falls like spawning salmon, right? So Lake Superior is right out.

Actually, before the Seaway was built, they wouldn't have made it past Long Sault near Montréal, would they?

Bat damn, that's a great image. Whales leaping up Niagara Falls... 'cause nothing else would be big and strong enough.

Lake Superior does have a small tide though, I've read.

slortar 05-17-2006 01:01 PM

Having grown up in the UP, my first response on reading the title of this thread was to burst into braying laughter and double-check the forum this was in.

The closest thing we have to whales are members of the Polar Bear Club. :D

wevets 05-17-2006 01:09 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Lemur866
Yeah. Beluga whales go up the St. Lawrence. But they're not gonna hop up Niagra falls like spawning salmon, right? So Lake Superior is right out.

Aren't there canals that bypass the falls?

Cluricaun 05-17-2006 01:11 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Sunspace
Bat damn, that's a great image. Whales leaping up Niagara Falls... 'cause nothing else would be big and strong enough.

The day that wales start jumping 176 feet in the air is the day that I move to the Gobi desert. :p

tomndebb 05-17-2006 02:46 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by wevets
Aren't there canals that bypass the falls?

Yes, but it is unlikely that the whales would be eager to share a confined space with the thrashing screws of a large freighter (a large number of which barely fit into the locks) and I suspect that a whale entering an empty lock would tend to cause the lockmaster to suspend operation until the whale exited downstream.

Skammer 05-17-2006 02:53 PM

Technically speaking, dolphins are whales. They are toothed whales (like Orca and False Killer Whales) as opposed to baleen whales. So the river dolphins mentioned in the OP are, technically, freshwater whales. Not that you would ever find them in the Lake Superior.

-- skammer, whose first job out of college was at the Shedd Aquarium/Oceanarium in Chicago

Bongmaster 05-17-2006 03:39 PM

About a year or two ago a beluga whale made its way up the Deleware river near Philadelphia. That's a pretty far trip from the ocean, its a 2 hour ride by car from Philly to the NJ shore.

matt_mcl 05-17-2006 04:31 PM

Recently a dead whale was recovered near Montreal. It appears that a ship had collided with it and pushed it all the way upstream.

AFAIK, no whale left to its own devices gets as far downstream as this. I don't even know if they come any farther than Quebec City.

For one thing, upstream from the Fjord du Saguenay, the water gets much, much shallower and warmer, which they may not care for. As it happens, the cold, deep water at the confluence of the Saguenay and St. Lawrence make Tadoussac a famous whale-watching site.

wevets 05-17-2006 05:28 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by tomndebb
Yes, but it is unlikely that the whales would be eager to share a confined space with the thrashing screws of a large freighter (a large number of which barely fit into the locks) and I suspect that a whale entering an empty lock would tend to cause the lockmaster to suspend operation until the whale exited downstream.

Good point. I wouldn't want to be trapped with the trashing screw of a large freighter either. I'm not even sure I'd want to be trapped with the non-trashing screws of a large freighter! ;)

Quote:

Originally Posted by Skammer
Technically speaking, dolphins are whales. They are toothed whales (like Orca and False Killer Whales) as opposed to baleen whales. So the river dolphins mentioned in the OP are, technically, freshwater whales. Not that you would ever find them in the Lake Superior.

-- skammer, whose first job out of college was at the Shedd Aquarium/Oceanarium in Chicago

[nitpick]Technically (cladisitcally), you're right. But if that's the game, you could say that Killer Whales are bony fish, and you'd technically be just as correct. :)[/nitpick]

Conventional wisdom is often polyphyletic. ;)

Tapioca Dextrin 05-17-2006 05:49 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by matt_mcl
Recently a dead whale was recovered near Montreal.

And there was the one in London*, too.



* not necessarily the one in Ontario :D


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