Humpback Whales Are Gathering in Large Numbers and Scientists Are Trying to Figure Out Why

Nature is full of mysteries, and generally, they’re curious and sort of delightful in that way.

Then, there are the mysterious of the natural world that are just a bit unsettling, and we’d feel much better if we could just know why something is happening.

To that point… the curious fact that humpback whales are gathering in huge pods definitely falls into this latter category.

Image Credit: iStock

Humpback whales are normally fairly solitary creatures – any group more than 10 is technically considered large – but now, researchers are seeing pods and groups numbering up to 200 gathering off the coast of South Africa. Not only that, but humpback whales don’t usually hangout in that region at all, preferring tropical waters for breeding and otherwise feeding in icy, Antarctic waters.

Despite reports coming in from multiple scientific expeditions, researchers don’t have many ideas on why the whales are congregating – though they can all agree it’s novel and quite strange.

The majority of the whales are young, so feeding is likely high on their priority list. In order to be a productive feeding ground, there has to be a dense concentration of prey to support that many whales.

Humpback whales hunt everything from krill to plankton to small fish, and even gang up on schools of fish to devour them en masse.

Image Credit: iStock

Basically, scientists do believe these huge congregations of humpbacks have something to do with feeding, though the sheer size remains confusing.

It’s been happening just in the past five years, so it could have something to do with growing populations – they’ve been multiplying quickly since becoming a protected species in 1996 – so it could be that we’ve always been wrong about their anti-social nature.

Image Credit: iStock

Maybe they’ve wanted a big ol’ friend group all this time, but there weren’t enough of them around to make it happen.

Or maybe they’ve been gathering, say, in the middle of the Pacific, where it would take mere coincidence for us to see or hear them.

Image Credit: iStock

Another option is that they’re trying to tell us something – sending us a message about warming oceans, rising seas, diminishing food supplies, and the like.

We don’t know, exactly, but in a year full of things that seem to point to an imminent apocalypse, it’s hard to believe this oddity is anything else.