Scientists Discover New Population of Endangered Blue Whales Using Their Song
A new population of endangered blue whales has been hiding in the western Indian Ocean. According to NOAA, these gentle giants weigh up to 330,000 pounds and grow up to 110 feet long. The largest creature to have ever lived on Earth would seem hard to miss, but this group has been unknown to researchers – until now.
All blue whales sing in loud, low-pitched, recognizable songs, New England Aquarium (NEAQ) reported. Distinct populations have distinct songs. According to the study, which was published in the journal Endangered Species Research, there are currently two or three known subspecies of blue whales in the Indian Ocean, believed to constitute four populations, each with a specific, diagnostic song-type.
"It's like hearing different songs within a genre – Stevie Ray Vaughan versus B. B. King," Salvatore Cerchio, a marine mammal biologist at the African Aquatic Conservation Fund in Massachusetts and the study's lead author, told The New York Times. "It's all blues, but you know the different styles."
Scientists discovered the new population on accident when they overheard their song, a slow, bellowing ballad that could serve as a mating call, the Times reported. Despite extensive study of blue whale songs, it was unlike any other whale song ever recorded. According to Smithsonian Magazine and the study, while the team lacks genetic data to support its findings, because blue whale melodies are unique population to population, the new song suggests an undetected population or one that was previously conflated with another population.
Recordings of the new song from three sites around the Indian Ocean, each separated by hundreds or thousands of miles, matched, and scientists began to piece together the routes of the previously-unknown pod of whales "moseying about in the Indian Ocean's northwest and perhaps beyond," singing their unique song, the Times reported.
The new song is now one of only a dozen or so other blue whale songs ever documented, each the "calling card" of a unique population of whales, the report continued. The latest melody has been labeled the "Northwest Indian Ocean" song-type and is the only blue whale song identified in the western Arabian Sea, the study reported.
"It was quite remarkable to find a whale song in your data that was completely unique, never before reported, and recognize it as a blue whale," Cerchio told NEAQ.
Each discovery of a new blue whale population brings renewed hope for the species' continued recovery. According to Smithsonian Magazine, intense whaling in the 19th and 20th centuries culled hundreds of thousands from the world's population and left them on the brink of extinction. The 1967 International Whaling Commission ban on hunting helped stop the slaughter, the report added. Forbes estimated that blue whale populations plummeted from 350,000 at the turn of the 20th century to between 10,000 to 25,000 today. The species remains critically endangered.
The study authors suggested that the new population off the coast of Oman could be survivors recovering from historic whaling. In the 1960s, intense illegal Soviet Union whaling in the region took 1,294 blue whales in total, "suggesting" that the fleet likely targeted this population and that "if there is a northern Indian Ocean subspecies ... it is likely this population."
The authors concluded that because the population remained undetected for so long, the new group is likely small and "in critical need of status assessment and conservation action." The whale group's identification also highlights how much of the ocean remains unexplored and how many other potential discoveries remain.
Blue whales are the largest animals ever to live on our planet. NOAA
- Endangered Blue Whales Make 'Unprecedented' Comeback to ... ›
- Some Experts Say Icelandic Whaling Company Killed an ... ›
- 14 Endangered North Atlantic Right Whale Calves Spotted This Season - EcoWatch ›
- Scientists Discover New Whale Species in Gulf of Mexico ›
By Kate Whiting
From Greta Thunberg to Sir David Attenborough, the headline-grabbing climate change activists and environmentalists of today are predominantly white. But like many areas of society, those whose voices are heard most often are not necessarily representative of the whole.
1. Wangari Maathai<p>In 2004, Professor Maathai made history as the <a href="https://www.nobelpeaceprize.org/Prize-winners/Prizewinner-documentation/Wangari-Maathai" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">first African woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize</a> for her dedication to sustainable development, democracy and peace. She started the <a href="http://www.greenbeltmovement.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Green Belt Movement</a>, a community-based tree planting initiative that aims to reduce poverty and encourage conservation, in 1977. More than 51 million trees have been planted helping build climate resilience and empower communities, especially women and girls. Her environmental work is celebrated every year on <a href="http://www.greenbeltmovement.org/node/955" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Wangari Maathai Day on 3 March</a>.</p>
2. Robert Bullard<p>Known as the 'father of environmental justice,' Dr Bullard has <a href="https://www.unep.org/championsofearth/laureates/2020/robert-bullard" target="_blank">campaigned against harmful waste</a> being dumped in predominantly Black neighborhoods in the southern states of the U.S. since the 1970s. His first book, Dumping in Dixie, highlighted the link between systemic racism and environmental oppression, showing how the descendants of slaves were exposed to higher-than-average levels of pollutants. In 1994, his work led to the signing of the <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/experts/albert-huang/20th-anniversary-president-clintons-executive-order-12898-environmental-justice" target="_blank">Executive Order on Environmental Justice</a>, which the <a href="https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-actions/2021/01/27/executive-order-on-tackling-the-climate-crisis-at-home-and-abroad/" target="_blank">Biden administration is building on</a>.<br></p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="7983f54726debdd824f97f9ad3bdbb87"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/T_VjSGk8s18?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Pollution has a race problem. Elizabethwarren.com
3. John Francis<p>Helping the clean-up operation after an oil spill in San Francisco Bay in January 1971 inspired Francis to <a href="https://planetwalk.org/about-john/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">stop taking motorized transport</a>. Instead, for 22 years, he walked everywhere. He also took a vow of silence that lasted 17 years, so he could listen to others. He has walked the width of the U.S. and sailed and walked through South America, earning the nickname "Planetwalker," and raising awareness of how interconnected people are with the environment.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="09b968e0e9964e31406954dcea45981d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/vgQjL23_FoU?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
4. Dr. Warren Washington<p>A meteorology and climate pioneer, Dr. Washington was one of the first people to develop atmospheric computer models in the 1960s, which have helped scientists understand climate change. These models now also incorporate the oceans and sea ice, surface water and vegetation. In 2007, the <a href="https://www.cgd.ucar.edu/pcm/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Parallel Climate Model (PCM)</a> and <a href="https://www.cesm.ucar.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Community Earth System Model (CESM)</a>, earned Dr. Washington and his colleagues the <a href="https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/peace/2007/summary/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Nobel Peace Prize</a>, as part of the <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change</a>.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="09fbf6dc37f275f438a0d53ec0fe1874"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/bvJ4jTy2mTk?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
5. Angelou Ezeilo<p>Huge trees and hikes to pick berries during her childhood in upstate New York inspired Ezeilo to become an environmentalist and set up the <a href="https://gyfoundation.org/staff/Angelou-Ezeilo" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Greening Youth Foundation</a>, to educate future generations about the importance of preservation. Through its schools program and Youth Conservation Corps, the social enterprise provides access to nature to disadvantaged children and young people in the U.S. and West Africa. In 2019, Ezeilo published her book <em>Engage, Connect, Protect: Empowering Diverse Youth as Environmental Leaders</em>, co-written by her Pulitzer Prize-winning brother Nick Chiles.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ce4547d4e5c0b9ad2927f19fd75bf4ab"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/YojKMfUvJMs?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
- Youth Climate Activists Want a Role in Biden's White House ... ›
- As Protests Rage, Climate Activists Embrace Racial Justice ... ›
- The Power of Inclusive, Intergenerational Climate Activism - EcoWatch ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
- Human Noise Pollution Is Harming Ocean Creatures - EcoWatch ›
- Mercury Pollution Found in Deepest Part of Ocean - EcoWatch ›
- Study: Plastic Pollution Increases Ocean Acidification - EcoWatch ›
The Postal Service is updating its massive fleet of mail carrying vehicles, heralding a significant step toward reducing carbon pollution from its massive fleet while also helping to protect its workforce from climate impacts.
- Texas Blackouts Reveal How Electric Vehicles Can Provide Power ... ›
- Ask a Scientist: Electric Vehicles are the Cleanest Option Today ... ›
After a second day of Senate hearings, Representative Deb Haaland (D-NM) is poised to become the first Native to serve as Secretary of the Interior (or any such high-ranking cabinet position.)
- Joe Biden Appoints Climate Crisis Team - EcoWatch ›
- Democrats Unveil Bill Addressing Cultural Genocide Against Native ... ›
- Biden Taps Rep. Deb Haaland to Lead Interior in Historic Move ... ›
A rare yellow penguin has been photographed for what is believed to be the first time.
- World-Renowned Photographer Documents Most Remote ... ›
- This Penguin Colony Has Fallen by 77% on Antarctic Islands ... ›