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Surprising underwater-sounds: Humpback whales also spend their winter in Antarctica
Date:9/9/2013

Biologists and physicists from the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, found out that not all of the Southern Hemisphere humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) migrate towards the equator at the end of the Antarctic summer. Part of the population remains in Antarctic waters throughout the entire winter. The scientists report this in a current issue of scientific journal PLOS ONE. This surprising discovery based on underwater recordings from the Antarctic acoustic observatory PALAOA. PALAOA is located near the research base Neumayer Station III on the ice shelf and regularly records underwater sounds of humpback whales even in the austral winter months.

Sometimes even scientists need the crucial little quantum of luck to obtain new research ideas. For instance Dr. Ilse Van Opzeeland, a marine biologist and expert on large whales at the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI). As she unlocked the door to her office one April morning and, as usual, switched on the live stream of PALAOA, the underwater acoustic observatory, the loudspeakers suddenly resounded with the calls of humpback whales - and this at a time during which the marine mammals should long have been swimming 7,000 kilometres further away in the warmer waters off Africa. "I was totally surprised, because the textbook-opinion until that day was that humpback whales migrate to Antarctic waters only in the austral summer months. And even then, standing believes were that they would only be feeding on krill in the ice-free regions around 60 degrees south latitude. However, our PALAOA observatory monitors an area 70 degrees south so, much further south than hitherto known feeding grounds. With this in mind, hearing the animals on a winter morning near our observatory was a double surprise," explains the scientist.

Driven by the question whether the winter-excursion of the humpback whales in th
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Contact: Dr. Folke Mehrtens
medien@awi.de
49-471-483-12007
Helmholtz Association
Source:Eurekalert

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