Whale ‘super-group’ spotted in Australia

Gentle giant: Humpback whales grow up to 16m long and weigh as much as 30,000kg. © Getty

Can whales save the planet? An unusually large collection of humpback whales has been spotted feeding off the coast of Australia. They could be key to fighting the climate crisis.

What’s happening

The scientists could not believe their eyes. They had sent a drone out into the ocean to spot sea life. What they saw on their screens gave them a shock.

There, near the surface of the water, was a huge pod of humpback whales. There were probably more than 30, and they seemed to be eating.

Find out more

Bubble-net feeding is when whales blow bubbles from their noses. The bubbles act like a net and catch their food. The whales then swim up, open their mouths and gulp in their prey.

Before now, experts thought bubble-net feeding only happened in the Northern Hemisphere. Now, for the first time, drones have filmed whales hunting in this way off the coast of Australia.

It is one of the biggest groups ever spotted. Scientists have named it a super-group, and say it could be proof that whale populations are growing.

This is good news for the climate crisis. Whales play an important role in the ecosystem. Plus, they store up to 33 tonnes of carbon in their bodies. The more whales there are, the less harmful CO2 there is in our air.

Can whales save the planet?

Some say…

Yes! We know that the greenhouse effect and global warming threaten all life on Earth. But whales play an important part in stopping it. One great whale captures seven times as much carbon as a car produces in a year. They are nature’s obvious answer to climate change.

Others think…

Maybe not. The whales could help us, but they are in danger. Six out of 13 great whale species are endangered. And around 300,000 whales and dolphins are killed each year by mistake. They might be able to help us, but we need to protect them first.

You Decide

  1. Are whales the most mysterious creatures on Earth?

Activities

  1. Imagine you are the person who filmed the whales. Write your own news report describing the discovery as it happened.

Some People Say...

“We owe it to our children to be better stewards of the environment. The alternative? A world without whales. It’s too terrible to imagine.”

Pierce Brosnan (1953 – ), actor and environmental activist

What do you think?

Word Watch

Drone
A radio-controlled aircraft that does not need a pilot on board.
Pod
The collective name for a group of whales.
Humpback whales
A kind of whale known for travelling large distances. They sing loud songs that last up to 30 minutes.
Northern Hemisphere
The half of the Earth that is above the equator – the invisible middle line around the globe.
Populations
The total number of people or animals living in a certain place.
Ecosystem
A community of organisms that interact and live together.
Greenhouse effect
The effect caused when too many gases capture heat in the atmosphere – like glass keeping a greenhouse warm by catching light. This leads to global warming.
Endangered
Something that is in danger of dying out – or going extinct.

Subjects

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