This is one of the most unique things you’ll see in nature.
A breathtaking new video from the University of Hawaii shows humpback whales swimming in a circular pattern while blowing bubbles to create a “net” to encircle their prey. For the first time, university researchers have captured this regular whale behavior from the point of view of an incredible whale, along with drone footage.
Filming in the cool blue-green waters of southern Alaska, the team used cameras and sensors attached to the whales with suction cups, along with drones to capture video and key data for a project investigating the causes of a possible decline in humpback whale numbers. .
The video shows the whales swimming around a school of fish in an ever-tightening spiral, building an ever-tightening wall of bubbles with the air they expel. Finally, they swallow their prey by swimming through the confined space with their mouths open.
“The footage is quite innovative,” said Lars Bejder, director of the UH Mānoa Marine Mammal Research Program (MMRP). “We are looking at how these animals are manipulating their prey and preparing the prey for capture. This is allowing us to gain new insights that we haven’t really been able to do before.”
During the summer feeding period, about 3,000 humpback whales visit Alaska, while up to 10,000 of them are in Hawaii for the winter breeding season. Upon leaving their foraging grounds and migrating 3,000 miles, the whales stop feeding until their return several months later. Females in Hawaii use large amounts of energy when giving birth, nursing and raising their young before migrating back to their foraging grounds.
The researchers hope the new images will shed light on changes in habitat use and changes in food availability linked to prey depletion and climate change.