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Humpback Whales Gathering In Groups: Researchers Try To Find Why

17 March 2017, 10:09 pm EDT By Andrew Norman Tech Times
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Scientists have been perplexed by the strange behavior which has been witnessed among humpback whales. Researchers are trying to determine why large groups of these whales have been gathering near the South African coast to feed.  ( Cameron Spence | Getty Images )

A mysterious occurrence has left the scientific community spellbound and researchers are trying to find out the reason behind it.

A Huge group of humpback whales has been gathering off the coast of South Africa to feed, and this occurrence has been recorded in 2011, 2014, and 2015. Scientists are astonished as these whales are solitary creatures that travel in a pack of two or three at the most.

However, during these gatherings, scientists have noticed more than 200 humpback whales at once. Normally, 10 or 20 would be considered a huge group when considering the size of these creatures.

What Astonishes Scientists

The researchers are trying to find out why such a high number of the whales are gathering in one place to feed, and how one area in the ocean can provide enough food to satiate so many. Especially considering that each of the whales weighs around 65,000 pounds.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), an averagely sized humpback whale consumes a ton of krill, shrimp, and small fish per day.

"Indeed, aggregations of whales of this size have seldom been reported in the literature, with 'large' groups often numbering in the range of 10 to 20 or less," remarked Ken Findlay, who is the lead author of the study, in an interview with Time.

Another puzzling factor is that the humpback whales usually migrate near Antarctica during the summer and it is only in winter when these whales are found in the other regions. However, these groups gathered off the coast of South Africa in summer.

Researchers are also trying to determine whether the age of the whales have some connection to this strange behavior as most of the humpback whales in the groups were particularly young.

What It May Mean

Researchers have not been able to pinpoint the reason behind this perplexing occurrence yet and they state that more research is needed to find a conclusive answer.

The scientists do posit that this may be a result of the surge in global humpback whale population in recent times. This increase in its numbers may have caused the whales to change its migration and feeding patterns all together.

"Future areas of investigation should include identifying migration links and the population identity of participating whales," surmise the researchers.

The U.S. Government has even removed the humpback whales from its endangered species list given the substantial increase of its population. Some reports indicated that the increase in number was as much as 10 percent within the last 15 years.

The complete study has been published in PLOS One.

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