Navigation Links
Research confirms bottom-feeding behavior of humpback whales

DURHAM, N.H. Humpback whales are known for the complexity of their feeding techniques, which include "trapping" krill and other prey within bubble nets they produce and gulping up to two-thirds their weight in prey-laden water. Now, scientists have confirmed that humpback whales in the southern Gulf of Maine are spending more feeding time on the ocean floor than in any of these other feeding behaviors. Because entanglement in fishing gear is a major risk to humpbacks, these findings have implications on bottom-set gear like those used in lobster traps.

"Humpbacks have not been known as bottom-feeders, yet this is their dominant feeding mode in this region," says University of New Hampshire professor of data visualization Colin Ware, lead author of a paper published in the journal Marine Mammal Science. "You've got this prominent species, and until now nobody knew how they were doing most of their feeding."

Ware, of UNH's Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping, and his collaborators, including David Wiley of the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Ari Friedlaender of Duke University Marine Laboratory and Pratt School of Engineering, gathered data from 52 humpback whales in the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary and the Great South Channel near Cape Cod, Mass.

By affixing DTAGs synchronous motion and acoustic recording tags to the whales' backs via four suction cups, the researchers could track for the first time the movements of the whales below the ocean's surface. TrackPlot, a custom software tool developed by Ware, translated the tags' data into a three-dimensional ribbon that illustrated the whales' paths as they repeatedly dove to the bottom of the ocean, rolled onto their sides, tilted their heads down, and feasted on sand lance, a favorite food that is abundant there.

From this data, collected between 2004 and 2009, Ware and his collaborators identified three distinct types of behavior during what they call bottom side-roll feeding: simple side-rolls, side-roll inversions, and repetitive scooping. The tag data confirms the bottom-feeding that scientists had suspected from visible scarring along some whales' jaws.

Not only did the data show that these humpbacks, "by far the most acrobatic of all baleen whales," Ware says, were performing bottom side-rolls and seafloor scooping, it indicates that this bottom feeding does not include lunging, previously assumed to be the humpbacks' primary feeding behavior.

In lunge feeding, whales accelerates to propel water full of prey into their enlarged mouths; they then filter the water out through the hair-like filaments of their baleens and retain the prey. Tag data showed that the bottom-feeding humpbacks were moving at too low a speed to characterize this behavior as lunge feeding.

While a Crittercam a National Geographic Society video camera that gives a whale's-eye view -- attached to a humpback provides additional insight into the whales' time at the seafloor, Ware cautions that there's plenty to learn about what the whales are doing in the deep.

"The big mystery is we still don't know exactly how they're feeding. We don't know the mechanism," he says.


Contact: Beth Potier
University of New Hampshire

Related biology news :

1. BUSM researchers study epigenetic mechanisms of tumor metastasis for improved cancer therapy
2. Research points to potential window for treating CMV and preventing mother-to-child transmission
3. Experts from NYU Langone present new research at American College of Rheumatology 2013 Annual Meeting
4. NSF, US Antarctic Program partners, working to restore Antarctic research season to the maximum extent possible
5. Expanding research communities and collaborations
6. NREL researcher honored with Hispanic STEM award
7. Researchers quantify toxic ocean conditions during major extinction 93.9 million years ago
8. OU research team finds a common bioindicator resistant to insecticides
9. Dr. Avrum Spira receives award for advancing research on tobacco smokes effect on lungs
10. Researchers discover how cancer invisibility cloak works
11. Oregon researchers say supplement cuts muscle loss in knee replacements
Post Your Comments:
Related Image:
Research confirms bottom-feeding behavior of humpback whales
(Date:11/19/2015)... , Nov. 19, 2015  Although some 350 ... is dominated by a few companies, according to Kalorama ... own 51% of the market share of the 6.1 ... The World Market for Molecular Diagnostic s . ... "The market is still controlled by one company and ...
(Date:11/17/2015)... LIVERMORE, Calif. , Nov. 17, 2015  Vigilant ... has joined its Board of Directors. ... Vigilant,s Board after recently retiring from the partnership at ... owning 107 companies with over $140 Billion in revenue.  ... performance improvement across all the TPG companies, from 1997 ...
(Date:11/12/2015)... LONDON , Nov. 11, 2015   ... and reliable analytical tools has been paving the ... and qualitative determination of discrete analytes in clinical, ... sensors are being predominantly used in medical applications, ... and environmental sectors due to continuous emphasis on ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/24/2015)... KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia , Nov. 24, 2015 ... the global contract research organisation (CRO) market. The ... to result in lower margins but higher volume ... With increased capacity and scale, however, margins in ... Contract Research Organisation (CRO) Market ( ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... November 24, 2015 , ... ... metabolism. But unless it is bound to proteins, copper is also toxic to ... researchers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) will conduct a systematic study of copper ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... November 24, 2015 , ... This fall, global software solutions leader ... five states to develop and pitch their BIG ideas to improve health and wellness ... competing for votes to win the title of SAP's Teen Innovator, an all-expenses paid ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... , Nov. 24, 2015 /PRNewswire/ - Aeterna ... announced today that the remaining 11,000 post-share consolidation ... Purchase Warrants (the "Series B Warrants") subject to ... exercised on November 23, 2015, which will result ... After giving effect to the issuance of such ...
Breaking Biology Technology: