The Scoop On Whale Poop

Phytoplankton, the foundation of the oceanic food chain. Photo courtesy NOAA and Wikipedia.

A new study shows that whale poop is an important contributor to fertilizing the ocean’s ecosystem, reports

While many mammals produce excrement in clumps, whale excrement comes out in fluffy plumes – like tufts of wool – and doesn’t sink to the bottom of the sea. Whales, by virtue of their nutrient-rich feces, play an important role in transporting nutrients from where they feed, in deep waters, up to the surface, where they often do their business and fertilize tiny, floating plants called phytoplankton, the researchers explain.

Smaller organisms, like microbes, plankton and fish, are typically thought of as the stars of the cycling of nutrients through ocean food chains. However, marine mammals, as big as many of them are, have often been overlooked as players here, according to the researchers.

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