In terms of the role of whales as nutrient recyclers, researchers say that before the loss of whales, whale populations produced an astonishing 12,000 tons of iron-containing feces each year, which is now 10 times the amount that whales recycle in the Southern Ocean.
Those calculations indicate that a lot of the whales were eating on the grill at the time, and that there must have been plenty more on the grill to eat.
According to Savoka, after many of their biggest predators in the grille population disappeared, scientists became known as the “Grill Paradox”. The decline in grille population is most pronounced in areas where whales are highly hunted, such as the Scotia Sea, between the South Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean in the southeastern part of South America.
“That decline doesn’t make sense until you consider that the whales are operating as mobile‘ grill processing plants ’,” Savoka said. “These are Boeing 737-sized animals that feed and defecate far from land in a system where iron reserves are very low in many places. These whales sowed production in the open southern ocean. There is little more to recycle this manure.”
The problem is, a lot of uneaten grills will sink to the bottom when they die. There, the iron in them is not used for phytoplankton, which is the main food for the grill and other zooplankton.