MAR 21, 2017 5:14 PM PDT

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

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

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
NOV 16, 2020
Cancer
Fingerprinting Ginger Extracts and Testing Their Anti-Cancer Abilities
NOV 16, 2020
Fingerprinting Ginger Extracts and Testing Their Anti-Cancer Abilities
Modern medicine relies on careful study and isolation of compounds or proteins, but many studies point to natural herbal ...
DEC 29, 2020
Space & Astronomy
How Do Spiders Behave in Zero Gravity?
DEC 29, 2020
How Do Spiders Behave in Zero Gravity?
The International Space Station (ISS) is a treasure trove of scientific intrigue. But it's not just life-saving drug ...
JAN 12, 2021
Earth & The Environment
What will become of the sharks?
JAN 12, 2021
What will become of the sharks?
What will be the future of sharks? These animals that have been around for 450 million years are in danger, threatened b ...
JAN 29, 2021
Earth & The Environment
The surprising sex lives of lichen
JAN 29, 2021
The surprising sex lives of lichen
Just like eavesdropping neighbors, scientists from Quebec's Université-Laval are peeping in on the shocking s ...
FEB 09, 2021
Plants & Animals
Venus Flytraps Generate Magnetic Fields
FEB 09, 2021
Venus Flytraps Generate Magnetic Fields
The Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) might be the most famous carnivorous plant; it can entice prey to land on its leaf ...
MAR 05, 2021
Plants & Animals
Some Exceptional Dogs Can Quickly Learn New Words
MAR 05, 2021
Some Exceptional Dogs Can Quickly Learn New Words
Researchers have determined that exceptional dogs only have to hear a new word four times before they learn it. While mo ...
Loading Comments...