No one knows why these humpback whales are organizing, but it can't be good

Source: AP
Source: AP

Humpback whales are up to something weird, and even scientists aren't sure what to make of it.

According to Popular Science, the whales have recently taken to organizing in pods ranging in size from 20 to 200 off the South African coast, and it's raising concerns for a few reasons — the first being that humpback whales shouldn't be swimming in that region to begin with.

While humpback whales typically migrate to tropical waters for mating season, this time of year they should be feeding near Antartica, not lazing near South Africa.

What's more, humpback whales are typically of the "no new friends" ethos, preferring solitude or, at most, small groups. Once upon a time, scientists referred to groups of whales of 10 or 20 as "large," which is why a gathering 10 times that size has sent up some red flags.

Popular Science floated a few theories to explain the bizarre phenomenon.

The outlet suggested a large group of whales might point to "a dense concentration of prey" they could be feeding on. They could even be practicing a new hunting tactic where they gang up on their prey — which consists primarily of krill, plankton and small fish — before going in for the kill.

The humpback whales could also simply be holding their equivalent of a staff meeting: Feeding and hunting patterns among humpback whales are learned rather than instinctual, so it's possible the mysterious groups of whales are just exchanging some strategies and information.

And — we'll admit this one's a stretch — there's always the slight chance they took some cues from these creepy turkeys, who were caught on video circling a dead cat in a Boston neighborhood earlier this month. 

Sometimes animals know something we don't. 

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Marie Solis

Marie is a Slay staff writer with focuses in culture and class. Her writing has appeared in Gothamist and the Awl. You can reach her at marie@mic.com.

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