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

d the tag on a whale's back just as the animal descended beneath a chunk of ice, Friedlaender chuckles and says, 'It was a textbook delivery'. But then he recalls the next nail-biting 3 minutes while the team waited for the whale to resurface. 'We realised that we had just put a $25K tag on an animal that went under the ice and if it fell off there we were never getting it back', he laughs. Fortunately, the tag stayed in place for an incredible 19 h, and when the team successfully tagged another whale a few days later, they were able to collect a further 8 h of precious dive data.

Teaming up with Jeremy Goldbogen and Dave Johnston to analyse the whales' orientation, depth and acceleration which showed when the whales lunged to engulf mouthfuls of krill Friedlaender could see that the minkes' behaviour was very different from that of other whales. Blue whales lunge up to four times during a dive and smaller humpbacks lunge up to 12 times per dive, so Friedlaender and his colleagues were astounded to see the minke whales lunging as many as 24 times during a single dive. 'They lunge over 100 times an hour, almost once every 30 seconds,' marvels Friedlaender. And when the trio analysed the dive patterns, they realised that the whales have three different strategies.

Friedlaender explains that the first two types of dive looked like classic whale dives. In the first, the animals remained near the surface and lunged 1-2 times, while in the second dive-type the whales plummeted to depths of 100 m and lunged about 15 times. However, when they analysed the third type of dive, they realised that it was completely unique. The whales were swimming just beneath the surface of the water and were feeding at incredibly high rates. And when the team checked the locations of the dives they realised that the whales were skimming the underside of the ice. 'The whales were feeding just underneath the surface where the sea ice meets the water and w
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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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