Record Numbers of Humpbacks Sighted in Antartica

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Scientists have discovered a pod of 306 Humpback whales in bays along Antarctica’s western peninsula, feeding off the largest swarm of Antarctic Krill seen in the last 20 years. The pod has been sighted in bays that are not often surveyed but scientists now believe that these may be major late season foraging grounds for the whales.

While the sighting are good news in the short term, they do however highlight how rapid climate change is affecting the region. “Such an incredibly dense aggregation of whales and krill has never been seen before in this area at this time of year.” says Douglas P. Nowacek, Repass-Rodgers University Associate Professor of Conservation Technology at Duke.

Most studies on the foraging habits of the whales have been focused on waters farther offshore in austral summer. Normally in May advancing winter sea ice would cover much of the peninsula’s bays and fjords which in turn protected Krill and forced humpback whales to migrate elsewhere to find food, however, with climate change warming the area over the last 50 years, the extent of the ice cover has been significantly reduced.

While the Humpback whales are more than happy to feed on the massive amounts of Krill, in the long term it could have a negative affect on many species in the area that rely on Krill as a food source.

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published on May 10, 2011 by jason
tags: , , , , , category: aquatic life
 

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