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HOME > PAST ISSUE > March-April 2010 > Article Detail

FEATURE ARTICLE

The Ultimate Mouthful: Lunge Feeding in Rorqual Whales

The ocean’s depths have long shrouded the biomechanics behind the largest marine mammals’ eating methods, but new devices have brought them to light

Jeremy A. Goldbogen

2010-03GoldbogenF1.jpgClick to Enlarge ImageSome of the largest baleen whales—such as blue whales, fin whales and humpbacks—fall into a family called rorquals that use an unusual method of feeding. These whales dive to depths of about 600 feet and feed on schools of krill by making a series of downward lunges with their mouths wide, to force huge volumes of water and prey into their expandable oral cavities. The ocean depths have long shrouded the biomechanics behind the largest marine mammals’ eating methods, but new devices have brought it to light. New sensors, attached by suction cups to the whales, have provided Goldbogen and his colleagues with data that shows the extreme amounts of drag and energy expenditure the whales undergo in order to feed. Goldbogen has also used historical records and made measurements of museum specimens in order to get a clear picture of the physics behind lunge feeding.


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