Ukrainian researchers have enriched the international whale registry with unique photos of humpback whales
Thanks to Ukrainian scientists, the international register of humpback whales in one of the regions of the Southern Ocean has increased almost 15 times!
This opens up new opportunities for researchers from all over the world to study the populations of these animals and their migration routes.
For example, there were only 15 humpback whales in the HappyWhale international whale base, identified in the South Orkney Islands (located northeast of Academician Vernadsky Research Station. There are already 211 individuals from this area, and all this - thanks to the difficult work of Ukrainian biologists.
Humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) are a cosmopolitan species which can migrate up to 8500 km between seasonal breeding and feeding areas, except for the non-migratory Arabian Sea breeding population. Humpback whale populations in the same hemisphere are roughly synchronized in the timing of their migration to and from feeding areas.
Last winter, scientists from the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, Karina Vyshnyakova and Yulia Ivanchikova, worked for more than 3 months on an expedition in the Southern Ocean aboard the Ukrainian trawler Sea of the Commonwealth. Among their tasks was the photo-identification of whales: the tails of these animals have a unique pattern, like human fingerprints. So the researchers stood on the deck for hours, staring at the ocean waves to "catch" whale tails in the photo. During the expedition, Julia and Karina collected more than 300 unique photos.
After their processing, a catalog of 275 identified animals was created in Ukraine. Those photos of sufficient quality and did not have repetitions were uploaded to the international whale base HappyWhale. In total, it is 230 photos. Most of them were from the waters of the South Orkney Islands, which increased the register of hunchbacks from this area by almost 15 times.
There was a "white spot" in this region of the Southern Ocean regarding the identification of whales. We managed to collect enough data from closing this 'spot'.Vernadsky Research Base
It is also important that these data already have the first significant conclusions. It turned out that about a dozen whales from the waters of the South Orkney Islands since 2006 have been found off the coast of Panama and Brazil! This gives a completely new idea about the migration of these animals because previously it was thought that from the Southern Ocean, hunchbacks do not migrate to such "high" Atlantic waters.
The scientists of the National Academy of Sciences have been working on a unique project on photo-identification of whales for over three years. Currently, the catalog contains more than 750 identified humpback whales.