Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Australian Blue Whales Now Call Antarctica Home

A pygmy blue whale feeds on krill in waters off Australia. Credit: research team

A pygmy blue whale feeds on krill in waters off Australia. Credit: research team

By Catherine Attard and Luciana Möller

The first evidence of interbreeding between subspecies of blue whales suggest that their ecology is changing, possibly due to historic whaling or climate change.

Catherine Attard is a PhD student studying the conservation genetics of blue whales at Macquarie University. Her supervisor, Dr Luciana M. Möller, is a research leader at the Cetacean Ecology, Behaviour and Evolution Laboratory, and deputy head of the Molecular Ecology Laboratory, at Flinders University. The research described here has been published in Molecular Ecology.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

An adult blue whale can weigh more than 160 tonnes, a mass unsurpassed by any animal known to have existed. Their length can reach up to 30 metres, which has only been met or surpassed by the long-necked, long-tailed and thick-legged terrestrial dinosaurs known as sauropods.

Blue whales might be the largest living animal yet they are one of the most mysterious. The vastness of the ocean – which occupies over 70% of the Earth’s surface – and their ability to travel long distances makes blue whales difficult to observe.

Finding the Rare and Elusive Blue Whale

Blue whales can migrate thousands of kilometres between breeding grounds close to the Equator that they occupy in winter and feeding grounds in colder waters that they occupy in summer. While each population of blue whales uses particular feeding and breeding grounds, they may share feeding grounds with blue whales from other populations.

Although immense in size, the blue whale feeds exclusively on small, shrimp-like crustaceans known as krill. Feeding aggregations of blue whales occur where there are sufficient densities of krill to meet the high energy demands of these whales.

Australia is home to two known feeding grounds of blue whales: along the Bonney coast in Victoria and South Australia, and at the underwater canyon, known as the Perth Canyon, located west of Rottnest...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.