Scientists are baffled by the large group gatherings of humpback whales. The bizarre behavior has never been witnessed before. Experts have their theories on why the whales are gathering in large groups, but no definite answers.
The humpback whales have been seen gathering in groups as large as 200 in mass feeding frenzies just off the coast of South Africa. This spot is thousands of miles further north than the whales normal feeding grounds.
Humpback whales are known to be non-social. They prefer traveling and hunting solo, in pairs or in small groups that disband once they have eaten.
One theory circulating is that the bizarre behavior is a return to social behavior for the species. Dr. Ken Findlay the lead author on the new study, says that he has never witnessed anything like this. He does add that there is the possibility that this behavior has taken place, before but was done in areas where it could not be seen, reports the Science Recorder.
Another theory is that the humpback whale is gathering in large numbers in response to shifts in their food supplies availability. Despite many whales seeing decreasing numbers the humpback whale has somehow seen a resurgence in numbers in the past few years. Before rebounding the species had seen a devastating decrease of 90 percent because of whaling.
Dr. Gisli Vikingsson, the head of whale research for the Marine and Freshwater Research Institute in Iceland, states that over the last few decades the humpback whale has rebounded somehow, reports the Daily Mail.
Humpback whales, despite their size, are harmless to humans. They feed on krill and small fish.
Scientists say that the humpback whale was seen feeding off the Cape Peninsula before, but that that took place well over a century ago.
Today researchers from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology in South Africa have reported seeing this bizarre behavior three different times while on cruises in 2011, 2014 and 2015.
Humpback whales spend the summer near the Antarctic. During that time the feast on krill and build up the necessary fat stores for winter. During the winter the swim to tropical waters to their nursery grounds so females can give birth, reports the Metro.
Scientists state that despite the cause of the behavior being unknown they speculate that the area where they are gathering in masses has developed into a vital seasonal feeding ground for the humpback whale.
By Tammy Marie Rose