Sunday, July 09, 2006

Bubble-net Feeding Humpbacks!

June 28, 2006

How do they do it? How in the world do six adult humpback whales come together in the dark green waters of Southeast Alaska to find, trap, and eat tiny herring by the hundreds? The answer comes in an ingenious method of cooperation called "bubble-net" feeding! One animal creates a circular (always clockwise) net of tiny bubbles exhaled through its blowholes below the prey. As the bubbles rise to the surface in a cylinder the herring are concentrated within and will not swim through the bubbles, a very effective net. Then in synchronicity the whales come together within the bubble-net and chase the tiny fish towards the surface. Their timing is perfect as the whales reach the surface just as the herring do. With nowhere left to go the fish jump wildly, but the huge whale mouths are right there to scoop them up. A fish lucky enough to leap out of the mouth of one whale usually ends up in the mouth of another. Talk about being caught between a rock and a hard place...

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