Featured Image Credit: Ken Findlay
By Sarah Sharkey
Over the past few years, scientists have seen a growing number of humpback whales gathering off the coast of South Africa. They have seen groups as large as 200 whales. That is a huge number of whales, especially considering that groups of 10-20 whales were once considered large.
These enormous groups are an interesting question for scientists. They are unsure why the whales are gathering in these numbers or how they are all able to eat. One whale can eat up to one ton of krill and small fish per day every day. The amount of food needed to support 200 whales in one area for any given amount of time is astounding.
And there is another reason this gathering is so out of the ordinary, humpback whales are usually not seen this far north. They are Southern hemisphere whales that typically feed near Antarctica in the summer and then migrate to reproduce and raise baby whales in warmer northern waters.
The final piece of this perplexing congregation is that most of the whales in these groups appear to be young. Why would any particular age group be particularly drawn to these large groups?
Scientists are trying to figure out why these typically solitary animals are now being found in these massive groups. Ken Findlay and his team are the researchers searching for answers, but they do not have any authoritative answers that explain this drastic behavior change yet. He did speculate that the rising global humpback whale population may have impacted feeding and migration patterns. He emphasized that more research will need to be done before any concrete answers can be found.