Over the past few years, scientists have noted an unusual thing. Humpback whales, who are not known to live in big groups, have started gathering in quite high numbers. This phenomenon was spotted in the waters near South Africa.
Around 200 Humpback Whales Were Spotted Feeding At A Time
Scientists are surprised by the recent behavioral patterns of the giant mammals. Not known for their “social” character, these whales have nonetheless started gathering in quite large groups. This phenomenon started was first noted back in 2011. Large gatherings were then spotted in 2014 and 2015.
This also determined a team of scientists to study this unexpected change. They were led by Ken P. Findlay. Research results were released earlier this month. The paper was published in the PLOS One journal. It was titled: “Humpback whale “super-groups” – A novel low-latitude feeding behavior of Southern Hemisphere humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) in the Benguela Upwelling System”.
According to the research, the Southern Hemisphere humpback whales migrate each year. Usually, they move from polar summer feeding grounds to their winter nursery and calving grounds. These latter are spent on tropical and subtropical coastal waters.
These whales usually spend their summer in the Antarctic and its polar regions. They feed on krill and build up fat stores. Over the winter, they migrate to the warmer waters of the tropics and subtropics. But in 2011, 2014, 2015, this rhythm suffered a change. More exactly, humpback whales were spotted in the south-western waters of South Africa.
They were noted to be feeding intensely in unusually high numbers. The over 200 whales were also very far away from their usual feeding grounds, the Antarctic waters. Instead, they were eating where they usually go to breed.
Scientists Are Still Uncertain Why The Humpback Whales Changed Their Behavior
Although they have been studying the whale populations, research has been unable to come up with an explicit answer for its question. The team is still uncertain as to what caused the change. However, they did come up with a potential answer.
According to Findlay, the phenomenon may actually be common. He stated that this behavior may have been taking place even before it was noted, but it more secluded areas. As such, this would have made it invisible to the researchers. The fact that the local population saw a massive number drop also did not help matters.
“Because there were so few of them, we may not have seen it.”
However, over the past few years, the humpback whales population saw an unexpected resurgence. Their number increased significantly and quite unexplained. Which may have led to the behavioral change.
As their numbers keep increasing, researchers are curious to see how the situation will evolve. They will also continue studying them and trying to determine the exact cause behind their large-scale gatherings.
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