FANTASTIC BEASTS and where to find their poo
SCIENTISTS are preparing for a seven-week trip that they’re describing as “the most detailed whale poo expedition ever”.
Experts will be setting off from Australia in January, in a research ship called Investigator. After using sonar to track down blue whales in the Southern Ocean, the experts will then use drones to take samples of the creatures’ poop.
“It stinks like rotten fish!” says researcher Lavenia Ratnarajah. “We don’t wear a mask – you tend to get used to it!”
The poo of blue whales is incredibly important for the life cycle in the Southern Ocean, as it’s packed with iron. This iron is vital for the growth of phytoplankton, which are microscopic plants that use the sun’s energy and CO2 from the air to grow, just like land plants. In turn, these phytoplankton are eaten by creatures like krill, which is the main food of blue whales and other animals. In fact, an adult blue whale can eat between 2-8 tonnes of krill in one day!
Because blue whales release their warm, liquidy poop near the surface of the ocean (sorry if this is too much information…), it’s a perfect fertiliser for phytoplankton and helps to keep nutrients recycling in the ocean.
The expedition by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and Australian Antarctic Division aims to compare how much of the ocean’s iron comes from whale poo, and how much comes from other sources, such as underwater volcanoes and melting sea ice.
Blue whale poo helps to feed the tiny plants in the ocean that take CO2 out of the atmosphere