Ocean Blog

UH Mānoa Researchers Study Habits of Humback Whales

October 16, 2019, 2:09 PM HST
* Updated October 21, 2:56 AM
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(Permit Number: NOAA #19703)

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa researchers and their collaborators have captured video from a humpback whale’s-point-of-view as it works to ensnare its prey.

The footage, taken in the ocean waters of Southeast Alaska, moves with the animal along with aerial video. It shows how the whale swims in a circular pattern while blowing bubbles to create a net to encircle its food, such as krill, plankton or small schools a fish.

According to a University of Hawai‘i newsletter, it explains how the team was able to use cameras and sensors attached to the whales with suction cups, coupled with drones to capture the video and important data for a project investigating causes of a possible decline in the humpback whale numbers.

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“The footage is rather groundbreaking,” said Lars Bejder, director of the UH Mānoa Marine Mammal Research Program (MMRP). “We’re observing how these animals are manipulating their prey and preparing the prey for capture. It is allowing us to gain new insights that we really haven’t been able to do before.”

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The team worked with PhD student Will Gough and other members of Stanford University’s Goldbogen Lab and the Bio-telemetry and Behavioral Ecology Lab at the University of California, Santa Cruz, using suction-cup tags fitted with cameras and accelerometers to gain an understanding of how humpback whales in Alaska feed and how some whales use bubbles to optimize their consumption of krill by producing bubble-nets.

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