Popular Science

Humpback whales are organizing in huge numbers, and no one knows why

It flies in the face of typical humpback behavior
Humpback whale gathering

Jean Tresfon/PLOSone

The humpback's scientific name, Megaptera novaeangliae, literally means "big-winged New Englander." They can use their "big wings" to maneuver backwards, though they have no beeping sound to warn other animals that they're putting it in reverse.

The world is ending and only the whales know. At least, that’s one explanation. Humpback whales are normally pretty solitary—scientists used to call groups of 10 to 20 “large.” Now they’re congregating in groups of 20 to 200 off the coast of South Africa. Something is definitely going

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from Popular Science

Popular Science1 min read
Stairs That Start Nowhere
GLANCE AT THE STAIRS ABOVE. Find the base…rather, spot the top. Upon closer examination, you’ll realize that there is no beginning or end. There’s no way that’s feasible, right? These familiar steps, called the Penrose stairs, are a type of “impossib
Popular Science11 min read
Biggest. Dig. Ever.
MATTHEW FLINDERS IS BARELY FORTY, but he looks seventy. His once dark hair gleams white, his already slight frame skeletal. As a captain in the British Royal Navy, he’s survived shipwreck, imprisonment, and scurvy, but this kidney infection will do h
Popular Science2 min read
All Man’s Trash
HUMANITY’S LEGACY LIES IN our garbage. Trash offers archaeologists insight into the day-to-day lifestyles of people long past. Even today, we’re leaving future excavators plenty of specimens to ponder: Most Americans produce around 4.5 pounds of wast