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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

'Rare' Fin Whale Grouping Off U.K. Coast

The BBC reports that scientists off the Cornish coast of southwest England were awed by the sight of 21 Fin Whales lunge-feeding together.

In the photo above (taken by La Jolla's Southwest Fisheries Science Center), you can see the telltale markings that distinguish the Fin Whale (Balaenoptera physalus) from the Blue Whale (Balaenoptera musculus): the animal's white lower-right jaw and the light chevron behind its head.

Fin Whales aren't the type to hang out in stable groups, according to what I've read of them, so this was likely to be an unassociated aggregation that was chasing krill or other smallish schooling fish. The scientists who spotted them were counting sardines at the time, according to BBC. One of them called it an "incredibly rare event."

Seeing so many of the world's second-largest creatures in one spot would be more exciting, however, if it weren't another possible sign of a distressing development:
Dr Colin MacLeod, Marinelife's chief scientific adviser, said the sighting could be part of a wider movement of sea creatures around Britain's coast as a result of climate change.

"These changes indicate the extent to which climate change is affecting our marine animals.

"If it is affecting these top predators to such an extent, it is likely that it is also affecting other marine life further down the food chain, including species which are commercially important for the fishing industry," he said.

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