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In a recent NPR report, Marine Biologist Victor Smetacek made an interesting discovery regarding whale poop.
Our oceans contain up to 6 billion tons of krill that play a huge role in the life of the oceans, and therefore the planet. Krill, which are small, shrimp-like crustaceans, feed hundreds of different sea animals from fish to birds and, of course, whales.
Antarctic krill have seen an 80% reduction in their population since the 1970’s. Without krill, the oceans would die, and with them all the life their population supports.
Whales, while the biggest consumers of krill, are also responsible for maintaining its population at a healthy level.
Here’s how it works: Krill need lots of nutrients, particularly iron, to multiply in such vast numbers. According to the Whale Poop Hypothesis, whales eat lots and lots of krill and, as they digest, they concentrate their waste into an iron-rich pooh which they strategically evacuate on the surface of the oceans.
Subsequent studies confirmed this theory and found that whale poo has 10 million times the amount of iron as seawater, making it an iron-rich food concentrate. Phytoplankton on the surface of the ocean need iron to multiply and become feed for the krill, which becomes feed for the whales and a plethora of other creatures, all of which play their critical role in the circle of marine life.
Any iron particles or dead phytoplankton that slip to the bottom of the ocean are recycled back into circulation by deep-diving sperm whales who feed at the dark depths of the ocean floor. Experts believe that each sperm whale delivers about 50 tons of iron a year to the surface of the ocean.
Biologists could never understand how the whales, who were hundreds of times more abundant in population 100 years ago, could get enough iron-rich nutrients to survive and thrive in such large numbers. Turns out, whales are the great recyclers. They concentrate iron through a unique digestive process that delivers the iron they need while replenishing the oceans with tons (literally) more iron and other nutrients to feed the phytoplankton, krill and the entire food chain from their poo. They literally fertilize the oceans to grow their own food and the food for almost everyone else in the ocean!
You can see why they have my vote for “The Perfect Poop.”