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Minke whales lunge 100 times/hour to feed under sea ice
Date:8/14/2014

Highly manoeuvrable and built like torpedoes, minke whales are the most common whales in Antarctic waters, yet the animals could be living on a knife edge as their sea-ice homes dwindle rapidly. 'Sea ice in the area around the Antarctic Peninsula has decreased dramatically in the last 30 years', warns Ari Friedlaender from Oregon State University, USA, adding, 'yet we do not know how critical the sea ice is as a habitat for the whales'. Given the pressing need to understand what the whales require to survive in their challenging and changing environment, Friedlaender and colleagues from the Southern Ocean Research Partnership an international group of researchers dedicated to non-lethal whale research headed south to tag minke whales in their Antarctic home to find out more about their lifestyle. The team has made the first live observations of minke whales lunging to feed by engulfing mouthfuls of krill under the sea ice. They show that it is not necessary to kill the whales to understand their feeding behaviour and publish their discovery that the animals have the highest lunge rate of any whale measured to date, lunging once almost every 30s, in The Journal of Experimental Biology at http://jeb.biologists.com.

However, tagging a minke whale is much trickier than tagging other species that inhabit the icy waters. 'Minke whales are fast moving and they don't spend a lot of time at the surface,' says Friedlaender. However, when Nick Gales, Doug Nowacek, Andy Read and Friedlaender encountered a pod of 35-40 minke whales in the Antarctic's Wilhelmina Bay, the team's luck was in. 'We very rarely see these large groups, so we knew that this was an extraordinary case,' says Friedlaender. He recalls that the whales appeared to be socialising and were distracted from the scientists, which allowed them to manoeuvre the boat gently in amongst the animals. Describing how he took his chance to lan
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Contact: Kathryn Knight
kathryn.knight@biologists.com
44-012-234-25525
The Company of Biologists
Source:Eurekalert

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