A New Population of Blue Whales Was Discovered in the Indian Ocean

The blue whale produces a loud song that can be heard from 600 miles away. 

With a loud, melodic call that can be heard from nearly 600 miles away, the blue whale is a majestic ocean creature that fascinates scientists. According to a new study published in a new study in the journal Endangered Species Research, an international team of researchers uncovered what they believe to be a new population of blue whales in the Indian Ocean. Blue whale songs have been studied extensively throughout the world and several populations of whales have been found in the Indian Ocean, thanks to their distinctive songs.

Blue Whale
Michael Mike L. Baird/Getty Images

Salvatore Cerchio, a marine mammal biologist at the African Aquatic Conservation Fund and visiting scientist at the New England Aquarium, first recorded the songs when he was studying whales off the coast of Madagascar in 2017. "People knew there were blue whales in this area. I had been researching blue whales off of Madagascar with passive acoustics. When we started looking at records, there weren't two song types, there were four," Cerchio told Treehugger. "This one was a new one. This area was more complex and more going on here that was going on before."

Blue whales, which swim through all of the world's major oceans except the Arctic, can be up to 110 feet long and weigh up to 150 tons. The discovery of an entirely new population of blue whales comes as good news, as the species was once hunted aggressively for its oil and continues to remain endangered today. "It's very exciting and maybe it's hard to describe that," says Cerchio, lead author of the study. "Most of what scientists do is look at what has been reported before and ask more questions. True discovery is a very rare event. It's very satisfying."

According to Smithsonian Magazine, the new whale population is most likely small, limited to the Indian Ocean, and is "in critical need of status assessment and conservation action," according to the study authors. "With all that work on blue whale songs, to think there was a population out there that no one knew about until 2017, well, it kind of blows your mind," Cerchio said.

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