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What Whale Poo Looks Like

Let’s talk about whale poop. It’s messy, it’s stinky and it floats on the surface in woolly tufts. But because the topic of whale poop doesn't come up in everyday conversation or even in lists of whale facts, most people don't know that whale poop is the Miracle-Gro of the ocean, rich in nutrients and vital to the health of marine ecosystems.

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According to research from the Australian Antarctic Division, whale poop is about 10 million times more concentrated with iron than sea water. Here's why:

  • Iron is found in algae (phytoplankton) on surface waters
  • Krill eat the algae
  • Whales eat the krill
  • The iron eventually ends up back at the surface in the form of whale poop
  • The algae use this iron for growth

This is a simplified version of what actually happens, but you get the idea. It’s a self-sustaining system with a very high level of production. Algae serves as the base for the aquatic food chain, so the more whale poop there is, the more abundant the ocean will be.

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But that’s not all—this system also reduces global warming. The algal blooms act as carbon traps because they take up carbon as they grow and don’t release it until they die. Dead phytoplankton can sink to the ocean floor where they (and their carbon) are soon covered up by other sinking material. Think of it as a carbon landfill that disposes of what would otherwise accumulate in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. So even though sperm whales in the Southern Ocean have been found to release 220,462 tons of carbon when they exhale, their poop draws down 440,925 tons of carbon and helps offset greenhouse gases.

The colour and consistency of whale poop varies by species. Red poop, for example, is a telltale sign of a diet high in krill. Check it out:

Sperm Whale Poop

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Blue Whale Poop

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Humpback Whale Poo

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Killer Whale Poop

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Killer Whale Fecal Samples

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Southern Resident Killer Whale Poop

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Right Whale Poop

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Comments

Dalton ICARD on December 10, 2014:

Me and my mom where very curious to find out what the poop looked liked. We both thank you for showing and share information. Your information really helped me understand stuff about them better. It's always great to learn new things !

Idk on September 17, 2014:

Nice lol

suzanne on September 21, 2013:

there have been numerous humpback whales in the capitola ca area of late-now there are chunks of gooey white stuff floating everywhere. It is also caught up in the kelp. It smells like cod liver oil-must be whale poop, yes?

Janelle Gibson on June 24, 2012:

I've been wondering for a very long time what whale poop looks like! Thanks! :) haha

Chris smardz on February 19, 2012:

That's some wild lookin stuff. Some whales look like they eat too much mcdonalds

Neil Sperling from Port Dover Ontario Canada on November 08, 2011:

LOl -- you are a very cool writer - your topics are a delight! Thanks

cheaptrick from the bridge of sighs on October 29, 2011:

Hmmm,seems like those Killer whales are constipated.Their poop looks minuscule in comparison with other whales...or maybe their old Killer whales cause old folks tend to have that problem so why not whales too!Ha!Your hubs are Sooo Out there I just Love em!Thanks

Dean

karwoo from Lake Stevens on October 27, 2011:

I didn't know :P Interesting read

CarliFrenneman (author) on October 26, 2011:

My pleasure! I wasn't sure how people would react to whale poop so I'm glad you found it as interesting as I did!

Christina Lornemark from Sweden on October 26, 2011:

Interesting hub! Whales are amazing animals and since they are big and eat a lot I guess the results must be according to the intake:) Thanks for showing me whale poop! Interesting and up!

Tina