Recent studies have revealed that there are 5,000 blue whales left alive. The decline of their numbers is largely due to excessive hunting by humans. But, a population of blue whales has been found flourishing after accidental discovery.
Sophisticated sonar mics on bomb detectors catch whale songs
If not for the underwater detectors this group of whales would have been hidden indefinitely. In a statement reported by the Daily Mail, Tracey Rogers, a University of New South Wales professor and marine ecologist said," 'We've identified a whole new group of pygmy blue whales there in the middle of the Indian Ocean." She added, noted by Big World Tale, "'We don't exactly know how many whales are part this group, however, the sheer quantity of calls we heard prompts us to suspect there seem to be a lot of them."
Help from the CTBTO
The actual discovery came from an organization called the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), which uses its high-tech array of underwater sound detectors to catch nuclear explosions.
By accident, military testing is a boon for civilian scientists. CTBTO has been searching for nuclear bomb tests by utilizing underwater microphones from 2002 when it detected strong musical patterns in their recordings. After detecting different frequencies, tempos, and structures, these patterns were identified as biological in origin.
Researchers parse through the data
Only after evaluating the information did the scientists realize that they had discovered an unknown pygmy blue whale population living within the Indian ocean's expanse.
Rogers clarified that blue whales from the Southern Hemisphere are hard to study since they live off the coast and do not jump around like humpback whales. She added that the same system that keeps the world safe from nuclear bombs allows the discovery of new whale groups. The military tech allows a more comprehensive study of the health of the ocean.
The sounds were matched to four types of Omura whale songs including three other known groups of blue whales found in the Indian Ocean. Scientists call the new group found by accident 'Chagos' after the nearby archipelago where they were detected.
'We assume the whales' songs of the Chagos migrate throughout the Indian Ocean at various times,' Rogers said.
Furthermore, the data shows they are not just in the central Indian Ocean. The whales are also to the north of Sri Lankan coastlines, and to the eastern Indian Ocean towards the Kimberley coast in the north of Western Australia. The new population of pygmy blue whales will be the fifth to be identified in the Indian Ocean if ocular observations are confirmed.
These powerful 'signals' and repeated occurrences suggest that they are probably from more than just a small group of blue whales, unlike humpbacks, that have structured songs.
The lead of the study is Dr. Emmanuelle Leroy, who said, cited by What's New 2Day," 'Every year, thousands of these tunes are created." He added the data gathered goes back to 18 years ago.
All the songs recorded by the bomb detectors indicate that it is coming from an entire population of whales, not just scattered pods but an unknown pygmy blue whale population.
A whalesong from a blue whale can travel as far as 125 and 300 miles (200-500km), but pygmy blues have a different version of their songs. Rogers stated that nothing is known how they acquire songs yet.