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New Insights on Whale Feeding Mechanisms
[ Issue 149 Page 2 ] Thursday, November 24, 2016, 20:19:38 Kun-Woo Song Junior Staff Reporter kwsong0725@kaist.ac.kr


     Researchers from the Hopkins Marine Station in Stanford University have shed new light on the mechanism of lunge feeding, a unique feeding method rorqual whales employ. During lunge feeding, the whale opens its mouth and sucks in both water and prey. To research this energetically costly mechanism, researchers attached accelerometers, pressure and sound recorders, and a camera on whales in South Africa, Patagonia, and off the coasts of US. From this, researchers found that depending on what the whale feeds on, the lunge feeding pattern differs. For whales that prey on krill, the whale accelerates from normal speed to maximum speed as it opens its mouth, which slows the whale down due to the drag force. When the whale returns to its normal speed, it closes its mouth. However, for those that prey on fish, the whale forgoes this energy-efficient strategy and varies the timing of opening its mouth to capture the evasive yet more nutritious fish. These results facilitate ocean conservation efforts for both whales and fish, as the relationship between whales and ocean ecology can be better understood.
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