Saturday, July 20, 2024

Whales eat three times more than expected


Large whales such as whales, fin whales and humpback whales eat three times more than has been assumed so far, but despite this their presence is enriching the marine ecosystem rather than depleting it: this can be seen from cross-sectional measurements made for the first time on more than 300 specimens with the help of Drones, GPS and ultrasound by an international team led by Stanford University. The study, published in Nature, shows that ocean giants play a more important than expected role in recycling nutrients by supporting the presence of phytoplankton and krill, so much so that their resettlement could help the oceans absorb carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by Mitigating the effects of climate change.

According to the researchers’ analysis, large whales consume an average of 5 to 30 percent of their body mass from prey: for example, the North Pacific whale eats an average of 16 tons of krill per day, while the North Atlantic right whale eats. 5 tons of zooplankton. These estimates are three times higher than previous estimates, drawn from analysis of dead whales or from consumption of young animals. Therefore, large cetaceans can be considered huge mobile plants for processing nutrients: due to their size, researchers compare them to a Boeing 737 that, after eating, eliminates waste by enriching the sea with iron and other elements useful for phytoplankton. , which in turn can absorb carbon dioxide through photosynthesis.

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Using this new data, the researchers calculate that at the beginning of the 20th century (before whaling caused millions of specimens to disappear) these animals “may have contributed to global productivity and decarbonization on a par with the forests of entire continents.” Explains Nicholas Benson, Curator of Natural History Museum Thus, helping to recreate it could be a “natural solution to the climate problem,” even if it takes decades to see the effects.

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