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

rctic waters during winter. Furthermore, the coastal region of the eastern Weddell Sea likely provides krill concentrations substantial enough for the animals to find sufficient food, even in the colder season, to acquire sufficient fat-reserves for reproduction and the long trip in the following year," explains Van Opzeeland.

These new findings substantiate the significance of the Southern Ocean as a habitat for humpback whales. "In the light of ongoing discussions regarding designation of marine protected areas, our results show that not only the known feeding grounds in the region of 60 degrees south are important for the humpback whales, but also waters further south, off the Antarctic continent. The animals can be found in these regions almost throughout the entire year," the biologist says.

Van Opzeeland and her team from the AWI "Oceanic Acoustics Lab" now want to find out to which population the humpback whales from the eastern Weddell Sea belong. The scientists are planning to compare calls from the PALAOA recordings with humpback whale song from the coastal waters off Gabon and Mozambique. "Each humpback whale population has its own song. Songs therefore provide an acoustic fingerprint, on the basis of which we will hopefully be able to say where the animals that spend their winters off the Antarctic continent breed," reports the marine biologist.

Breeding presumably takes place in the coastal region off southern Africa. "We know from other humpback whale-populations in the Southern Hemisphere that their spring southbound migration is relatively straight and direct in course. If this also is the case for humpback whales in the Weddell Sea, it is likely that they belong to populations on the east or west coast of southern Africa," Van Opzeeland states.

Furthermore, the AWI team is analysing data from a chain of underwater acoustic recorders which the Ocean Acoustics Lab scientists have moored along the Greenwich Meridi
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Contact: Dr. Folke Mehrtens
medien@awi.de
49-471-483-12007
Helmholtz Association
Source:Eurekalert

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