Scientists have found out why whales prefer to give birth to cubs in shallow water

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(ORDO NEWS) — The shallow coastal waters seem like an odd choice for an 80-ton animal and yet every year, female southern right whales swim ashore to give birth. Now scientists understand why they do it.

Coastal waters, where the depth reaches about ten meters, is a very unsuitable place for the southern right whale ( Eubalaena australis ), which grows up to 18 meters in length and weighs up to 80 tons.

Nevertheless, every year the females of this species migrate thousands of kilometers to get to such “inconvenient” places and give life to the next generation of their species.

For a long time it remained unclear why they do this. Not only is shallow water simply inconvenient for such large animals, it is also more dangerous than the open ocean due to the proximity of humans and the lack of food resources.

Initially, it was assumed that the whales chose it because of the smaller number of predators and warmer waters, however, apparently, this is far from the main reason.

A group of biologists from the Laboratory of Bioacoustics and Behavioral Ecology at Syracuse University (USA) found that shallow water provides whales with another unusual means of avoiding predators: in these waters, the sounds made by whales fade faster.

In other words, the mother, who is close to the cub, will be able to calmly communicate with him, but the predator will no longer be able to hear them.

The data was collected from three locations along the coasts of Africa, South America and Australia where southern right whales give birth.

Comparing the range of whale calls in the open ocean and in shallow water, scientists found that females with cubs not only regulate their calls on their own (for example, reduce their amplitude and change frequencies), but also use the features of the local environment to “mask” from predators.

Scientists have found out why whales prefer to give birth to cubs in shallow water 2
Killer whales are one of the most dangerous predators for southern right whales, which are able to “eavesdrop” on their cries in order to detect prey at a distance

Thus, mother whales go to great lengths of constriction, scarcity of food, and risk of collision with humans in order to ensure the safety of their young. For several months, the whales and their parents remain in shallow water until the babies get stronger, after which the mother and calf return to the open ocean.


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