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Lobtail feeding in whales

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Image of the Week #89, April 29th, 2013:

From: Animal culture: insights from whales by Felicity Muth at Not bad science.

Source: Jennifer Allen from Whale Centre of New England

New research shows that feeding strategies may be culturally transmitted among humpback whales. A novel form of hunting called “lobtail feeding” involves a whale slapping its tail hard on the water’s surface before engaging in “bubble feeding,” in which the whale blows bubbles around prey to act as a confusing net before it charges the group of fish with mouth wide open. The new “lobtail feeding” style was first observed in 1980 and its proliferation throughout the population has since been tracked by researchers, showing evidence of the whales learning new behaviors from each other, although the exact advantage of “lobtail feeding” is not yet understood.



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  1. 1. squidboy6 10:12 pm 04/29/2013

    I think it says, “yeeee-ha!, here I come you tiny fishes!”. But I could be wrong.

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  2. 2. AnchovyRancher 12:15 pm 04/30/2013

    I think it’s a concussive effect that confuses their prey to act irrationally and become dinner. I was sleeping on the beach, in a tent, on Maui one morning and could have sworn that someone was repeatedly slamming a car door to open the tent door and find about a dozen Humpbacks just cruising around, slapping their tails on the water. Of course, they weren’t feeding in Hawai’i but, the effect was amazing. I went down to a little cove and let sea water fill my ears. I laid in the cove and listened to whales singing and tails slapping for about an hour. So, who knows what the whales are really doing with that behavior. It may serve allot of different functions.

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  3. 3. bucketofsquid 5:51 pm 05/22/2013

    Maybe they are conducting a social experiment on the behavior of humans reacting to changes in whale feeding patterns.

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