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New technologies reveal mysteries of marine megafauna

How can scientists follow leatherback sea turtles that dive to crushing depths a half-mile below the surface and swim across 80% of the world's ocean? Or tunas that race faster than most boats? Or albatrosses that soar halfway across the Pacific without sleep or a meal -- unlike their human observers? Science is beginning to make all this possible with a series of leaps in tagging technologies. High tech tools such as small data storage tags equipped with micro-processors and satellitelinked GPS devices are providing new insights into the little known lives of large ocean animals.

Electronically tagged elephant seals now routinely "call home" via satellite transmission, regularly informing researchers of their whereabouts. Bluefin tunas are functioning as living submarines, collecting data on ocean temperatures, and transmitting information about their feeding, breeding and travel patterns. Perhaps most importantly, the technology is disclosing where the animals are running into problems - and providing new insights about how to alleviate them.

At a AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) press conference on Thursday, February 12th at 1pm and in a scientific session on Friday morning, leading researchers will reveal how the latest technologies are allowing scientists to understand animals in the global ocean at a scale and resolution never before possible. Their findings are providing exciting, new opportunities to conserve these animals by working with fishermen and fisheries managers.

"The vastness of the open ocean is an incredibly important place biologically, and, unfortunately, it's in trouble. But normal people don't go out there and see it they don't know that there are irreversible changes going on," says Elliott Norse of the Marine Conservation Biology Institute. "Some of these species face walls of hooks by the million each night, on lines that would stretch from Seattle to Tacoma. Some are targeted, but m
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Contact: Jessica Brown
jbrown@seaweb.org
202-497-8375
SeaWeb
12-Feb-2004


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