Washington: Whale poop plays a huge ecological role in the oceans by recycling nutrients and enhancing productivity, says a study. Whales feed at depths of more than 500 feet and release fecal plumes near the surface, providing nutrients to support plankton growth.

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Plankton are a diverse group of organisms that provide a crucial source of food to many large aquatic organisms.The whales also move nutrients thousands of miles from their feeding areas around the Arctic and Antarctic to warmer waters at lower latitudes where they come to give birth and raise their young.

Whales were hunted in large numbers till 1986 when the International Whaling Commission banned whaling. "The decline in great whale numbers, estimated to be at least 66 percent and perhaps as high as 90 percent, has likely altered the structure and function of the oceans," said Joe Roman from the University of Vermont in the US.

Even in death, whale carcasses store a remarkable amount of carbon in the deep sea and provide habitat and food for an amazing assortment of creatures that only live on these carcasses. "Dozens, possibly hundreds, of species depend on these whale falls in the deep sea," Roman said. The findings were published in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.