Humpback whales use ‘stealth’ and deception to prey on fish, study finds

A new study suggests that certain species of giant whales will sneak past their small prey,media New Atlas reported. A recent study by scientists at Stanford University found that humpback whales weighing about 30 tons use deception to make them feel close to various species of fish.

Humpback whales use 'stealth' and deception to prey on fish, study finds

It may seem paradoxthat that the behemoths in the ocean feed on very small marine life, but this is the case with minke whales, including giant blue whales. They survive by devouring large quantities of krill and small fish, a method known as the Lunge-Feeding method.

In this case, the whale opened its mouth, sideways or leaned toward the krill and small fish, then closed its mouth, the underside of the fold open, swallowed a large amount of water and prey, and finally the water was removed, swallowing the prey. But it is well known that the fish react quickly, they usually disperse quickly, and whales often fail to get a big meal as they like. Now a team at Stanford University has found that whales carry out “tricks.”

Using video data from the labels of humpback whales near Monterey Bay and Southern California, as well as a combination of computer models, a team of scientists led by Jeremy Goldbogen, an assistant professor of biology at Stanford University, was able to gain insight into the whale’s feeding activities. Specifically, they simulated how the herring escaped the virtual whale’s prey based on the reaction time when the whale opened its mouth.

Humpback whales use 'stealth' and deception to prey on fish, study finds

David Cade, a graduate student at Stanford University, said: “One of the innovations in this study is the use of predator data to inform us about ‘reproducing’ fish responses. This led us to find that when the whale opened its mouth, the range of values in which the fish responded to the incoming predator was almost simultaneously passed, suggesting that the whale could avoid triggering the fish’s escape response by precisely timing the devour. However, the researchers found that whales do not need to do this when they hunt krill because they are not as vulnerable to scares as smarter fish.

“It makes sense when we realize that fish have evolved to avoid being preyed on by smaller predators, but from an evolutionary point of view, sprint feeding is a relatively new feeding strategy,” Cade said. “

In addition to understanding how whales track their fish, the new study provides an estimate of how many fish humpback whales eat at a meal or over a period of time, the team said. It also provides a better understanding of how whales change the sprint feeding between fish and krill to minimize energy consumption. In the case of humpback whales, the energy efficiency of fish predators using sprint feeding is seven times that of krill.

The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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