The Surprising Discovery About Baleen Whales' Diets

Sharon Renee Animals /
baleen whales diet krill
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How much do whales consume on the average day? It's no surprise that the massive mammals have a daily diet larger than most. But according to new research, it appears the sea animals are eating much more than researchers ever realized. Here's what scientists recently uncovered after studying the fascinating creatures...

baleen whales krill diet
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It all started when Matthew Savoca, a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University, set off to get to the bottom of that question. "This is such a basic question, I'd assumed we'd figured it out 30, 40, 50 years ago, but no one had ever measured it," the researcher explained. According to him, there was more to the story than we'd ever anticipated.

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So, alongside a team of international researchers, Savoca tagged 321 whales from 7 different species: humpback whales, blue whales, fin whales, bowhead whales, Antarctic minke whales, Bryde’s whales, and North Atlantic right whales. With the help of drones and "whale iPhones," the collaborators tracked the mammals' every move, including their daily hunts for food.

baleen whales daily diet
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Sure enough, Savoca came across a rather unexpected discovery: the whales consumed between 5-30% of their body weight in krill on the average day. In other words? These mammals consumed about 3 times more than researchers previously surmised. But that's not all the recent finding revealed...

krill baleen whales diet
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"This study shows that baleen whales play a much more important role in our ecosystem than we thought," Sian Henley, an observing scientist at the University of Edinburgh, reflected. Why, exactly? The 14 known Baleen Whale species are said to transport vital nutrients throughout our oceans via their excrement. "We need to improve ocean protection and management at the largest scale possible, especially in the Southern Ocean."

whales diet krill discovery
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From keeping the marine food chain in order to protecting our oceans in the process, such whales are crucial to help make Earth a better home. "Whales are not the solution to climate change, but rebuilding whale populations would help a sliver, and we need lots of slivers put together to solve the problem," Savoca explained. Check out the full Nature study, and be sure to stay tuned for further updates.