Scientists can study lots from whales that wash up on seashores, however “the sheer size of a deceased whale and the situation of the carcass makes physically weighing deceased whales is extremely difficult,” says Ashley Barratclough, a conservation drugs veterinarian at the National Marine Mammal Foundation. It may be hard to extrapolate measurements from a whale carcass because they’re so quick to bloat with gases. Distended or squashed bodies make it hard to gauge girth precisely, and fluid loss can skew mass measurements. (They will additionally lose giant quantities of fat, Barratclough says, if they starve while entangled on the internet.)
Even an accurate post-mortem accounting is a one-time affair, and that may be deceptive, as a result of the animals’ heft varies a lot throughout the year. Southern right whales can bulk up or shrink by up to 25 % throughout the yr., depending on whether they’re squirreling away fuel reserves in their polar feeding grounds or hauling themselves to more temperature waters to mate or give start to nurse calves.
To get a better picture of the animals’ measurements, an international group of nine researchers, together with Moore, recently enlisted drones to assist them in surveying an inhabitant of southern right whales in Península Valdés, Argentina. “It’s the biggest breeding floor for southern right whales on the earth,” says Fredrik Christiansen, an Eco physiologist at Aarhus Institute of Advanced Research in Denmark, and lead writer of the team’s new paper in Strategies in Ecology and Evolution. “Thousands come to this area into two comparatively small gulfs, and they keep there, in sheltered and protected waters.”