Mystery surrounds whale super-pods

Mysteries

(Image: Jean Tresfon/PLOSone)

MYSTERY WIRE — While it’s not uncommon to spot whales in the ocean swimming together, it has been uncommon to see more than 20 together, never mind around 200 that were recently seen off the coast of South Africa.

When whales gather together it’s known as a pod. In scientific terms a “large” pod is between 10 to 20 whales. The group recently seen near South Africa is being called a super-pod. In a recent PLOSone publication, research on the phenomena is explored.

There’s nothing common about these super-pods, including where they are being seen. According to PLOSone, the humpbacks are not supposed to be in this region near South Africa this time of year. Popular Science wrote the humpbacks migrate up to tropical waters to breed, but they typically feed down south in the icy waters of Antarctica this time of year.

Humpbacks are known to group together to feed. In fact that’s usually the only time they gather in large pods. Given that each whale can weigh up to 65 tons, it takes a lot of prey to keep them alive. And the more whales, the more food that has to be available.

Which some scientists believe is why the humpbacks are collecting in new locations with larger pods. Their food is also on the move, living and migrating in different parts of the ocean, it’s believed due to temperature change.

But for now, it’s not proven this is what’s happening, leaving science to continue researching the super-pods.

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