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Fin whales are making their first return to Antarctic waters since hunting was restricted in 1976

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It’s been 46 years since the hunting of southern fin whales was restricted in Antarctica, and now it looks like the animals are finally making a comeback.

Researchers have seen hundreds of southern fin whales feeding together near Antarctica’s Elephant Island.

“I had never seen so many whales in one place before and was absolutely fascinated to see these huge groups feeding,” said Professor Bettina Meyer, a biologist at the Alfred Wegener Institute and co-author of the study.

The team hopes that the recovery of the fin whale population can also help the recovery of other marine organisms in the area.

Researchers have seen hundreds of southern fin whales feeding together near Antarctica’s Elephant Island

In the study, the team used a helicopter survey and video recordings to collect data on the abundance of fin whales in Antarctica in April 2018 and March 2019

In the study, the team used a helicopter survey and video recordings to collect data on the abundance of fin whales in Antarctica in April 2018 and March 2019

The Southern Whale

The fin whale is the second largest whale species on Earth, second only to the blue whale.

It gets its name from an easily recognizable fin on its back, near its tail.

Like all large whales, common whales were hunted by commercial whalers, severely reducing their populations.

Whalers did not initially target them, as they were fast swimmers and lived in open ocean habitats.

But as whaling methods modernized with steam-powered ships and explosive harpoons, and whalers decimated other easy-to-catch species, whaling turned into fin whales.

Fin whales are the second largest whale species after the blue whale and were hunted extensively in the 1800s.

Whalers did not initially target them, as they were fast swimmers and lived in open ocean habitats.

But as whaling methods modernized with steam-powered ships and explosive harpoons, and whalers decimated other easy-to-catch species, whaling turned into fin whales.

Unfortunately, by the time hunting of fin whales was banned in 1976, it is estimated that more than 700,000 whales had been killed.

In the study, the team used a helicopter survey and video recordings to collect data on the abundance of fin whales in Antarctica in April 2018 and March 2019.

They recorded 100 groups of fin whales, with group sizes ranging from one to four individuals.

The team also saw eight unusually large groups of up to 150 whales, which appeared to be actively feeding.

This came as a surprise to the researchers, who had previously only observed fin whales feeding in a group of up to 13 individuals.

In particular, the researchers noted a hot spot of fin whales around Elephant Island, with an estimated 3,618 whales per square kilometer.

The team recorded 100 groups of fin whales, with group sizes ranging from one to four individuals

The team recorded 100 groups of fin whales, with group sizes ranging from one to four individuals

The team also spotted eight unusually large groups of up to 150 whales, which appeared to be actively feeding

The team also spotted eight unusually large groups of up to 150 whales, which appeared to be actively feeding

The sightings suggest fin whales are finally recovering in the Antarctic.

“Even if we still don’t know the total number of fin whales in Antarctica, due to the lack of simultaneous observations, this could be a good sign that, nearly 50 years after the ban on commercial whaling, the Antarctic’s fin whale populations are declining.” recovering,” Professor Meyer said.

The findings hold promise for the wider marine ecosystem, the researchers say.

While whales eat krill, they also benefit from it.

Sightings suggest fin whales are finally recovering in Antarctic waters

Sightings suggest fin whales are finally recovering in Antarctic waters

Whale droppings are a rich source of nutrients, including iron, and act as fertilizer for microalgae in the water.

In turn, phytoplankton is the main food source for krill.

“As the whale population grows, the animals recycle more nutrients, increasing the productivity of the Southern Ocean,” said Professor Meyer.

‘This stimulates the growth of algae, which in turn absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through photosynthesis, reducing the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere.’

The study is published in Scientific Reports

WHALE SONG EXPLAINED

For a long time it was believed that whales only sang for mating purposes.

But some experts suggest the songs also help the mammals explore their environment.

Researchers have recorded humpback whales changing their calls when they move to new pastures to match the songs of others around them.

Learning these songs can help whales locate and group together better in unfamiliar waters.

Researchers have recorded humpback whales changing their calls when they move to new pastures to match the songs of others around them (file photo)

Researchers have recorded humpback whales changing their calls when they move to new pastures to match the songs of others around them (file photo)

It’s difficult for scientists to study how whales sing, as the shy creatures are notoriously difficult to observe and each species has a different voice.

Humpback whales sing using folds in the ballot box that vibrate at low frequencies when air is pushed over it.

It has been suggested that they have special air sacs next to these vocal cords that connect to the lungs.

This allows the whales to pass air between their lungs, sacs and vocal cords without losing any of their precious air supply.

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