HomeUncategorizedStunning New Video Footage Shows 150 Whales Feeding Together

Stunning New Video Footage Shows 150 Whales Feeding Together

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For the first time since the prohibition on whaling, huge groups of southern fin whales have been documented in the Antarctic.

Prof. Bettina Meyer, co-author of the new study in Scientific Reports, enthuses, “I’d never seen so many whales in one place before and was absolutely fascinated watching these massive groups feed.”

From March to May 2018, she led an excursion with the research icebreaker Polarstern in the Antarctic Peninsula region, where she spotted groups of up to 50 or even 70 fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus quoyi).

The trip looked into the consequences of climate change on Antarctic krill, which are up to six centimetres long and form the foundation of the Antarctic food chain.

Stunning New Video Footage Shows 150 Whales Feeding Together
Stunning New Video Footage Shows 150 Whales Feeding Together

Fish, penguins, seals, and whales feed mostly on the small bioluminescent crustaceans. During the voyage, a crew headed by the study’s primary author, Dr Helena Herr of Universität Hamburg, and a BBC video team used the Polarstern’s onboard helicopter to conduct survey flights, counting and documenting the whale stocks.

The team traveled 3251 kilometers in 22 flights and counted 100 fin whale groups, each consisting of one to four whales. Furthermore, the whale research team maintained a close eye on deck and observed a group of about 50 southern fin whales near Elephant Island in the Weddell Sea off the Antarctic Peninsula, and later more than 70 in the same location.

“I ran straight to our monitor, which uses acoustic measuring methods to show the presence and size of krill swarms in the water,” recalls Bettina Meyer. “And based on the data, we were able to identify the swarms and even see how the whales hunted them.”

https://youtu.be/j75Osx8MYZE

However, whales do more than only eat krill; they also provide benefits to the ocean, as their waste contains nutrients like iron, which is needed for the growth of phytoplankton (microalgae) in the water and is quite scarce in the Antarctic.

In exchange, phytoplankton provides food for krill.

“When the whale population grows, the animals recycle more nutrients, increasing the productivity of the Southern Ocean. This boosts the growth of algae, which for their part absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through photosynthesis, reducing the atmospheric CO2 concentration,” adds Bettina Meyer.

The recovery of fin whale stocks appears to be a trend: one year after the Polarstern voyage, the whale research team and the BBC went to Elephant Island on a hired ship and saw up to 150 animals.

“Even if we still don’t know the total number of fin whales in the Antarctic, due to the lack of simultaneous observations, this could be a good sign that, nearly 50 years after the ban on commercial whaling, the fin whale population in the Antarctic is rebounding,” adds Bettina Meyer.

Image Credit: Getty

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