Why are humpbacks gathering together in large groups ? Image Credit: CC BY 3.0 Whit Welles
In a peculiar change to their normal behavior, humpback whales have been seen congregating en masse.
This particular species is not typically social, preferring instead to traverse the ocean alone, in pairs, or on rare occasions in small groups which tend to disband quickly.
Over the last few years however, scientists have been observing increasingly large groups of up to 200 individuals situated hundreds of miles north of their traditional Antarctic feeding grounds.
"It's quite unusual to see them in such large groups," said whale researcher Gisli Vikingsson.
Exactly why the whales are gathering together like this remains a mystery, however it is possible that they are changing their behavior in response to changes in the availability of their food supply.
Similar congregations were actually reported in the same region over 100 years ago, but since then the overall population of humpbacks has been reduced by up to 90% due to whaling.
"It's possible that the behavior was occurring but just not where it was visible," said lead study author Ken Findlay. "Because there were so few of them, we may not have seen it."
Source: New Scientist | Comments (16)