Humpback whales are record breaking swimmers – they have been recording as migrating further than any other mammals, according to scientists in the USA. They clocked the whales as travelling over 5100 miles from Costa Rica in Central America to their feeding grounds in Antarctica.
They used a traditional method to collect the data, rather than complex satellite tracking – recognising individual whales by the shape and colour of their tails. As a whale ages, it get small nicks and cuts in its huge tail, as well as species like barnacles taking up residence on it. This means that individuals can be told apart by taking a photograph and studying the differences in the tails. The researchers collected photos of at whales in both Costa Rica and Antarctica and recognised the same whales in both areas.
Apart from the fact that the whales migrate so far, another interesting part of this study is that it proves that humpbacks do migrate to warmer waters in the winter. They also used satellite data on sea surface temperatures to show that in years where the temperatures in Costa Rica were cooler, the whales actually travelled even further north, away from Antarctica, to warmer areas to stay comfortable over the winter before swimming all the way back down in the spring to the feeding grounds.