Many baby humpback whales should soon be hitting the Antarctic seas and swimming around merrily if the past years are any indication.
Researchers noted that an unusually high amount of female humpbacks from the Southern Ocean around the Western Antarctic Peninsula were pregnant during the last few years. From a study published in the Royal Society Open Science, researchers hope that this may finally mean the recovery of their population after nearly being wiped out by commercial whaling during the 20th century.
Humpback whales pregnancies last for around 11 months and they only give birth every couple of years. And once that calf baby whale is born, you will see the mothers become extremely protective and affectionate towards the newborn. So if you are lucky on your next whaling trip you may just catch a quick glimpse of one of the young, just kidding! We know you are just waiting for the beautiful photos to appear on Instagram and so are we.
Unfortunately, due to the humpback whales tendencies to group into bays and stay afloat when killed, they were very easy targets for whalers. When protective treaties were finally put in place during the late 20th century, their populations gradually began to improve and the humpback whale was no longer considered to be an endangered species.
So how did the researchers realize so many females were pregnant? Between 2010 and 2016 they collected some skin and blubber samples from 268 females. They then tested these samples for a hormone called progesterone which is a hormone that regulates the reproductive system in many mammals, even humans. If the hormone level was over a certain threshold then the researchers knew if these titans were expecting a baby.
They found that year on year the averages were going up! From a mere 36% in 2010 to a 86% in 2014, meaning that we may soon find every bay of the Antarctic ocean filled with baby humpback whales.