Tuesday, 16 October, 2018

Blue Whales Weren't Always The Giants They Are Today

Blue whale Blue Whales Weren't Always The Giants They Are Today
Doris Mccormick | 25 May, 2017, 03:24

Image copyright Ishara S Kodikara/AFP/Getty Images Image caption Blue whales can be more than 100 feet (30 metres) long - about the same length as three double-decker buses in a row! On the list of the planet's most massive living creatures, the blue whale shares the top ranks with most other species of baleen whales alive today.

To ascertain what could have led to the whales' size increase, researchers focused on the creatures eating habits.

How and why whales got so enormous has remained a riddle up to this point, to some degree on account of the difficulties of deciphering an inadequate fossil record.

'We haven't had the right data, ' Pyenson said. "How do you measure the total length of a whale that's represented by a chunk of fossil?"

But he provided a solution himself recently, when he established that the width of the skull was a reliable indicator of the overall body size of a whale.

Bigger whales were protected from predators due to their size, and their fat reserves allowed them to travel to farther locations where there are copious amounts of plankton.

Researchers, including those from the National Museum of Natural History in the U.S., measured a wide range of fossil skulls.

The team incorporated data from 13 species of modern whale to work out evolutionary relationships between whales of different sizes.

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Goldbogen, whose investigations of present day whale searching conduct have exhibited that channel encouraging is especially productive when whales approach exceptionally thick collections of prey, said the scrounging system turns out to be much more proficient as body size increments. Photograph authorized under National Marine Fisheries Service permit #16111 for the BBC program "The Hunt", courtesy of Hugh Pearson and David Reichert.

Researchers believe larger whales were at an advantage because they could make long journeys to reach the krill.

A new study claims that an "evolutionary jump" after the most recent ice age caused the to become giants simply so they could eat more krill.

"We might imagine that whales just gradually got bigger over time, as if by chance, and perhaps that could explain how these whales became so massive", Slater said in a statement. The team also found that it was not just that the largest whales became bigger over time - the smallest found today are also much larger than the smallest extinct species. Before the Northern Hemisphere began getting covered in ice sheets, whales must have had access to food resources nearly evenly distributed through the world's oceans.

As ice sheets covered the northern hemisphere, krill ceased to be distributed thinly throughout the oceans.

However, when glaciation began, run off from the new ice caps would have washed nutrients into coastal waters at certain times of the year, seasonally boosting food supplies, researchers said. The theory goes that by becoming bigger, the whales could gather up more food in single sittings.

"If you are a whale, the easiest way to take advantage of dense but sparsely available resources is to get big", Slater said.

A few million years ago, the largest whales, averaged maybe 15 feet long. "Our research sheds light on why today's oceans and climate can support Earth's most massive vertebrates". But today's oceans and climate are changing at geological scales in the course of human lifetimes.

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