Humpback ‘Bubble Nets’ More Complex Than Thought
July 1, 2011
A recent study by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) researcher David Wiley shows the hunting strategy used by humpback whales is more complex than previously thought, according to an article on MotherJones.com.
One of the ways the whales corral their prey of krill or small fish is to create “bubble nets” — vertical columns of bubbles that fish see as a barrier. By creating spirals of bubbles, the whales restrict their prey to a smaller sphere of movement, making them easier to scoop into their huge mouths.
In his study, Wiley used sensors attached to the whales which captured the bubble nets in action in 3D. As Wiley created a computer-generated 3D model of the nets, he found that the nets sometimes consisted of a previously unknown tactic called “double loops.” Working in teams of at least two, the double loop consists of “one upward spiral [of bubbles] to corral the prey, a smack of the fluke on the ocean surface (known as a ‘lobtail’) then a second upward lunge to capture the corralled prey.”
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Video:Humpback Whale: Hunting Technique