Blue whales are currently the largest animals alive on Earth both on and off the endangered species list so it is only natural that humans are interested in its feeding habits.
Tech Times reported from previous studies that blue whales apply efficient feeding strategies when it comes to foraging for krill — its main diet — but it is only now that we finally get to see the massive animal in action.
The Blue Whale In Action
Leigh Torres, a marine spatial ecologist from Oregon State University’s Marine Mammal Institute, used a drone equipped with a camera to study the feeding patterns of blue whales off the coast of New Zealand in an effort to help manage its population. What she captured not only proves the theory that the massive animal employs strategic foraging but also shows how efficient the strategy is.
“Modeling studies of blue whales ‘lunge-feeding’ theorize that they will not put energy into feeding on low-reward prey patches … Our footage shows this theory in action,” Torres said.
The theory is that, because of the blue whale’s sheer size, it has to conserve energy and make smart choices when feeding, and the Marine Mammal Institute’s footage shows just that.
One would see in the two-and-a-half-minute video that the blue whale recognized two krill patches but only exerted effort on one of them — the more massive one.
Torres explains that previous observations usually limited scientists to the boat where they can see the blue whale turning on its side to feed but the actual event is not seen. Now with the help of a camera drone, the researchers were able to record an aerial footage of the feeding.
Blue Whale Choices
Around the 30-second mark, the footage shows the blue whale approaching a krill patch and turn on its side before slowing down to consume it. The video actually shows the whale swimming at about 6.7 mph on its approach to the krill patch then slowing down to 1.1 mph during the actual consumption.
Just a little over the one-minute mark, the blue whale recognizes another krill patch and turns on its side to prepare to lunge at it. However, the whale seems to have deduced that the krill patch is too small to satisfy its appetite so it bypasses it instead.
“The whale bypasses certain krill patches … and targets other krill patches that are more lucrative. We think this is because blue whales are so big, and stopping to lunge-feed and then speeding up again is so energy-intensive, that they try to maximize their effort,” Torres explains.
Watch the amazing footage below.
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