Strange and interesting doings in the world of humpback whales. Over the past few years, scientists have observed large numbers of humpback whales feeding together off the southwestern tip of South Africa between St. Helena Bay and Cape Point. While dolphins and orcas are known to form, from time to time, what are called “super-pods,” large groups of different extended families, humpback whales have been considered to be far more solitary creatures, usually swimming alone or in in pods of two or three. Now, however, groups of between 20 and 200 humpbacks have been observed feeding together. Scientists have observed 22 instances where these groups have formed over the last several years. They are not sure what to make of what appears to be a significant change in humpback whale behavior.
Not only is the number of whales unusual, but so is their location. Typically, humpback whales in the Southern hemisphere migrate farther south to the waters off Antarctica to feed during October and November. The humpback super-pods have tended to be farther north. Many have been seen in the Benguela Upwelling System, ocean currents off the southwestern tip of South Africa. Scientists speculate that this may be due to the increased number of humpbacks in the area. Humpback whale populations have rebounded in recent years after being hunted to near extinction. It may also reflect an increase in krill related to climate change.
The media has taken a slightly more fanciful view of what the humpback whales may be up to. Gizmodo has suggested that the humpback whales are plotting to take over the worlds where as the IFLScience blog thinks the gatherings look “more like a rave. The only question now is whether they were listening to dubstep or some heavy drum and bass.”