Groundbreaking video captures special skill whales have to manipulate their prey

Groundbreaking video captures whale bubble-net feeding in UH research

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Researchers at the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s Marine Mammal Research Program and key collaborators captured amazing whale’s-point-of-view and aerial drone video of humpback whale bubble-net feeding.

It’s one component of a project investigating causes of a possible decline in humpback whale numbers.

Researchers used suction-cup tags fitted with cameras and sensors to gain an understanding of how humpback whales feed and how some whales use bubbles to optimize their consumption of prey by creating bubble nets.

“We’re observing how these animals are manipulating their prey and preparing the prey for capture," said Lars Bejder, Director of the MMRP.

"It is allowing us to gain new insights that really haven’t been able to do before,” Bejder said.

The data is providing novel insights into the fine-scale details of how the whales carry out this behavior and how often they do this to sustain and gain enough energy and weight before they migrate back down to Hawaii to breed and mate.

“In Hawaii it’s a breeding and resting ground," said Bejder. "When they get up to Alaska it’s a foraging ground, and we’re trying to understand what that whole migration costs these animals and also how much prey these animals have to consume to maintain this whole migration.”

About 3,000 humpback whales visit Alaska during the summer feeding period, and up to 10,000 visit Hawaii during the winter breeding period.

When the whales leave their foraging grounds and migrate 3,000 miles, they stop eating until their return several months later.

Copyright 2019 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.