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The Enormous Hole That Whaling Left Behind

In Community news
Nov 21st, 2021

By Ed Yong

The mass slaughter of whales destroyed far more than the creatures themselves.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, industrial whale hunting nearly annihilated the largest creatures ever to live on Earth. Humans hunted blue whales alone so intensely that their population dropped from 360,000 to around 1,000 — all within the lifespan of a single blue whale.

But the tragedy didn’t end with the loss of whales’ lives. All the lost whales — some 2 million baleen whales in a single century — created a food-web collapse that still lingers today. According to a new study, the absence of healthy whale populations left 430 million metric tons of krill uneaten every year, which meant millions of tons of iron-rich whale poop didn’t fertilize ocean ecosystems. All this has caused a kind of marine desertification.

Read more in The Atlantic.

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