Scientists Call Whales the ‘Engineers’ of the Ocean Ecosystem

12:09 minutes

Photo by Tim Bayman/flickr/CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Photo by Tim Bayman/flickr/CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The whaling industry has reduced baleen and sperm whale populations by an estimated 66 to 90 percent. In the past, scientists thought cetaceans such as these were too rare to significantly affect the ocean ecosystem. But in a recent paper in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, conservation biologist Joe Roman says that whales are critical to the stability of their environment because of a mechanism called the “whale pump,” or fecal plumes.

Segment Guests

Joe Roman

Joe Roman is a conservation biologist and a Sarah and Daniel Hrdy Fellow in Conservation Biology at the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Meet the Producer

About Alexa Lim

Alexa Lim was a senior producer for Science Friday. Her favorite stories involve space, sound, and strange animal discoveries.