Featured Image Credit: Ari Friedlaender
By Jessica Kittel
Ever wonder how it would feel to live life like a whale?
Thanks to a team of marine mammal specialists, it’s not nearly as hard to imagine anymore. This group of researchers used special, non-invasive sensors that doubled as cameras to get a behind the scenes look into a whale’s day-to-day life. They garnered information on when, where, and how these whales forage on krill.
Turns out, we already knew the who, the what, and the why (the answer is, ‘cause they’re hungry). The critter-cam is also giving unique insight into whale socializing and how they manage to breath, even when there’s sea ice around.
These researchers, led by Dr. Ari Friedlaender of Oregon State University’s Marine Mammal Institute, attached these cameras to Minke and Humpback whales using the good ol’ suction cup strategy. The cameras would stay on these Southern Ocean residents for 24 to 48 hours, after which the researchers would retrieve them and their data, before reapplying them to other whales.
This information is critical to help managers better understand critical feeding areas and the potential impact of sea ice decline due to global climate change.
Dr. Friedlaender stated that due to this research,
“We have some wonderful data on different feeding strategies from rolling lunges near the surface, to bubble net feeding, to deep foraging dives lunging through dense patches of krill. We have been able to show that whales spend a great deal of time during the days socializing and resting and then feeding largely throughout the evening and nighttime”.
He also noted on WWF.org that “whales are aggregating in… high numbers and are feeding there for weeks at a time. Every time we deploy a tag or collect a sample, we learn something new about whales in the Antarctic.”
“Once we have an idea about where the whales feed, how often, where they go and rest, we can use this to inform policy and management to protect these whales and their ecosystem.”
Here’s looking at you, whales!