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BLUE WHALE FLUKE PRINTS AND POOP PRINTS

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Conservation | Whale Watching | Mammals

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Hugh

The Aquarium of the Pacific is indeed fortunate that its sits in an area where massive blue whales visit the waters off its shores each summer. Its gives its visitors a chance to see the world’s largest creature in person when they venture out on an Aquarium sponsored whale watch trip.

I took advantage of that fact last summer and went out on a whale watch boat from Rainbow Harbor to see them up close. We ran into one in the waters off the Palos Verdes peninsula. He put on quite a show, showing his flukes during a deep dive. These whales are so long at 90 feet plus that the anticipation of them lifting their flukes up builds to an exciting level as yards upon yards of blubber curl across the surface of the water before the massive tail breaks the surface.

So what brings these whales to our local waters?

Krill, lots and lots of krill.

How do I know that they’ve been dining on krill in our local waters? Well, an adult blue whale can eat over 4 tons of krill per day. And just like you and I after gorging ourselves on our favorite foods, a lot of what enters our body via the mouth, usually exits the body a bit further down. In the images to the right you can see the aftermath of a blue whale feast. That reddish spot in the water is the whale’s poop. And not just any poop. Blue Whale poop consists of the reddish krill its been gorging on. Its the concentration of these crustatians that is bringing these whales to our waters—a smorgasbord of tasty little critters that whales can’t resist.

Normally, you can track a whale underwater by following the “fluke” prints on the surface that is caused by the up-welling of water displaced by the movement of the tail. In the bottom image you can see the trail of the whale’s fluke prints and also the whale’s reddish “poop” prints in the water leading up to the cetacean itself. “Poop” prints gives whale watchers another way to follow the movement of these leviathan diners.

BLUE WHALE FLUKE PRINTS AND POOP PRINTS
Blue whales are quite a sight to behold as they finally bring their massive tails slowly out of the water with their flukes looking like the wings of some advance jet fighter.  | Hugh Ryono
BLUE WHALE FLUKE PRINTS AND POOP PRINTS
Blue Whale Poop.  | Hugh Ryono
BLUE WHALE FLUKE PRINTS AND POOP PRINTS
This image shows the blue whale spouting as it leaves in its wake not only a fluke print but also a poop print.  | Hugh Ryono

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Anitza's avatar

Anitza

Thursday, July 31, 2008 06:34 PM

Oh Hugh! You know you are a marine biologist (or some sort of geek) when you are out watching whales and get excited about seeing their poop float on the surface.

I was fortunate last year to encounter that myself and I whipped out my phone and grabbed some photos! Ornithologists might have their lifelong bird watching check lists, but our lists are a little more open ended! I was so excited to check that one off!

Hugh's avatar

Hugh

Friday, August 01, 2008 02:35 PM

Hi Anitza,

If you think I’m bad, my wife Pam wanted to stop the boat and get a net full of samples to take home and anaylze.

Hugh

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Helena Tellez

Tuesday, December 09, 2008 07:53 PM

I’m a whale lover! I think this site is great!Please contact me if you have any WHALE events!
            Thanks!

All blogs and comments represent the views of the individual authors and not necessarily those of the Aquarium.

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