Humpback buffet

Posted: Sunday, August 05, 2007

Humpback whales have to eat too. One of the unique feeding behaviors of this marine mammal is bubblenetting. The whales create a net of bubbles, about 65 feet across and 45 feet deep, of rising air bubbles from their blowholes.

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A group of whales herd their prey by making trumpet-like sounds to a location where the feeding occurs. Once the prey, usually schools of fish or krill, is herded into a general area, the net is let loose as the pod forces the meal into a tighter and tighter pack. When the time is right, the whole pod sweeps in from below the net, mouths open, consuming the trapped prey. Bubblenet feeding was originally identified by former Juneau-Douglas High School biology teacher Charles Jurasz, during his pioneering whale research in the 1970s.

"The thing that really blows me away is which whale learned this, and then had to teach the other whales in whale-talk how to do it." Juneau photographer Mark Kelley said. " It is a pretty amazing thought."

There is an estimated worldwide population of 30,000 to 40,000, according to the American Cetacean Society Web page. There are about 1,000 humpback whales that come to Alaska waters to feed in the summer.



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