Blue whales are the largest animals that have ever lived on Earth. Adult blue whales are even bigger than any dinosaur ever was. Even so, the ocean is immense, and biologists are still trying to find all the places where blue whales like to hang out.
Scientists have now found a gulf off the coast of southern Chile where blue whales gather. The discovery might lead to better strategies for whale conservation.
As large as blue whales are, the oceans are a lot larger, and biologists are still mapping out migration routes and feeding grounds for these hard-to-find creatures.
History hasn't been kind to blue whales. From about 1900 to 1960, whalers killed some 97 percent of blue whales in the Southern Hemisphere. Today, there are only between 700 and 1,400 left in that part of the globe, even though hunting the whales is now illegal.
The new discovery was somewhat accidental. When researchers look for whales in the Southern Hemisphere, they usually go to polar regions or near the equator. After finishing an official whale survey in the late 1990s, scientists from the International Whaling Commission went on a sightseeing trip to the Gulf of Corcovado, an inlet between the southern mainland of Chile and a group of islands nearby.
There, the whale-watchers spotted more whales than they had seen during months of searching in other places. A more complete search last year between January and April netted 153 sightings of blue whales, including 11 pairs of moms and their calves. Some whales may have been counted more than once.
Scientists are excited about finding a new hangout for blue whales. Observations there so far suggest that whales use the site to feed and to nurse their young. Further study might help conservationists find even better ways to protect whales. As far as they are concerned, the more we know, the better off we are.E. Sohn