MAR 21, 2017 05:14 PM PDT

Where Are All These Humpback 'Super-Groups' Coming From?

It’s not every day that humpback whales are observed in large groups. They’re typically loners that will sometimes be caught with a buddy or two in the ocean.

With that in mind, why are humpback whales consistently being spotted gathering in such high numbers of 20-200 individuals in super concentrated areas far away from where they’re expected to be found? A new study published in PLOS ONE may reveal the answer.

Unexplained super-groups of humpback whales are reportedly accumulating off of the coast of South Africa more often.

Image Credit: Jean Tresfon/PLOS ONE

According so the study, there have been up to 22 different instances of these super groups appearing off of the coast of South Africa during research cruises in the years of 2011, 2014, and 2015, and similar accounts are sometimes noticed from aircraft flying over the ocean.

Because of their typical solitary behavior and seasonal migration patterns, theories about why so many of the creatures are pooling into one given area that they’re normally not found during this time of the year is quite puzzling. In fact, no one seems to have a solid explanation just yet.

While unconfirmed, one theory is that perhaps changes are occurring in the oceanic ecosystem that could be limiting the availability of their prey choices. As a result, all the humpbacks may be getting forced to migrate to specific regions just to find the food they want to eat.

You might also like: Incredible footage of a humpback whale breaching from the point of view of a diver

“We propose that the 'super-group' feeding phenomenon (as tightly spaced large groups of whales) is a relatively recent behavior exhibited by these whales," said lead researcher Ken P. Findlay, from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology in South Africa.

“No such dense feeding aggregations have been reported elsewhere in low or mid latitudes during Southern Hemisphere humpback whale migrations. 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."

Other theories suggest that perhaps humpback whales have been doing this all along and it just went unnoticed or that massive resurgences in their populations are causing them to behave differently.

While there certainly appears to be a lot to the story of humpback whales that researchers haven’t yet uncovered, it just goes to show that we don’t know everything we thought we did about the species and they will continue to surprise us.

Source: Popular Science, ScienceAlert

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
SEP 16, 2019
Health & Medicine
SEP 16, 2019
The Science Behind Good Cannabis
The two main chemical components of the cannabis plant are Tetrahydrocannabinol and Cannabidiol. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the primary psychoactive com...
SEP 16, 2019
Plants & Animals
SEP 16, 2019
Researchers Discover Two New Frog Species in Ecuador
It seems like newly-discovered animal species are being described and named in scientific journals on a regular basis. With that in mind, it shouldn’...
SEP 16, 2019
Plants & Animals
SEP 16, 2019
These Frogs Freeze Solid and Thaw Out Several Months Later
The idea of having your body frozen solid and then thawed out sometime in the future sounds like something straight out of science fiction, but for some fr...
SEP 16, 2019
Health & Medicine
SEP 16, 2019
A Safer Cannabis Extract Could Help Users Fight Cannabis Dependence
According to The National Institute on Drug Abuse, roughly 30% of recreational cannabis users in the U.S. may be at risk of having some degree of cannabis...
SEP 16, 2019
Microbiology
SEP 16, 2019
Researchers Find That Rift Valley Fever Can Spread in US Livestock
Mosquitoes spread the virus that causes Rift Valley Fever, which is usually seen in cattle but can infect people....
SEP 16, 2019
Plants & Animals
SEP 16, 2019
These Monkeys Thought a Troop Member Died, and Their Reactions Are Heartbreaking
Scientists carefully placed a high-detail animatronic ‘spy monkey’ near the site of a troop’s living quarters in an effort to gather info...
Loading Comments...