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Lunge Feeding Frenzies!

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Animal Updates | Mammals | Conservation | Education | Whale Watching

Friday, August 23, 2013

Julien

So far, August has not disappointed as one of our best months to see blue whales! Not only are we seeing the blues but we are seeing them feeding on krill at the surface. This type of behavior is called surface lunge feeding and it makes for a pretty memorable experience as a guest on board and even for us educators! Not only have been seeing blues but fins and minke whales and common, bottlenose and even a few Risso’s dolphins have been out and about as well. We have also had a few other marine visitors around our boats during the trips including a green sea turtle, a rare brown booby, huge sunfish, and even some purple sea jellies.

During the summer we have a large abundance of krill in the water due to a process called upwelling. Upwelling brings the nutrient rich colder bottom water to the surface. Where there are nutrients, there are plankton, and where there are plankton there are bigger plankton like krill eating those plankton, and where there are large plumes of krill, there are huge whales! Our waters have been dark red with krill and the whales have been eating like crazy. An adult blue whale eats about 8,000 pounds of these small shrimp-like animals every day, which makes for super cool whale watching.

When the krill is at the surface the whales spend more time there as well. When a whale lunges for the krill to sieve it out with its baleen we get to see the ventral pleats of the whale expand to hold up to 17,000 gallons of water. We also sometimes see their eyes, their pectoral flippers and their flukes! I was recently on a trip where we saw two blues come up simultaneously lunging for krill next to each other, and several other trips have had the blues lunging just feet from the boat! This is the best way possible to really realize the massive size of these animals!

Watching the lunge feeding is so unique because you can see different behaviors and even personalities of the whales as they eat. Everyone has their own style. Some will circle the krill and corral them for a while before they lunge and some will just go for it. Some will speed up really quickly upon the krill and some will be more casual. Some will stay at the surface for a long time before diving and some will dive frequently. Some even blow bubbles before they dive and really show their fluke. There were so many incredible photos that the photo ID interns took this month that it was hard to choose the best ones! I hope you all enjoy the close up photos of the whales lunging for that krill and will come out on a whale watch for a chance to witness it live!

Lunge Feeding Frenzies!
A blue circling the krill before its next lunge. The water is dark red with patches of krill.  | Aquarium of the Pacific
Lunge Feeding Frenzies!
A blue lunging onto its side.  | Aquarium of the Pacific
Lunge Feeding Frenzies!
Two blues corralling their prey.  | Aquarium of the Pacific
Lunge Feeding Frenzies!
A rare sighting of a tropical brown booby.  | Aquarium of the Pacific

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