The Feeding Efficiency of Blue Whales

Oceans take up almost 70 percent of Earth’s overall surface and contain some of its most fascinating creatures. Amongst the unprecedented variety of ocean creatures residing in the deep waters, the blue whale is the largest of them all. These enormous mammals can reach 30 meters in length and weigh around 200 tons (National Geographic). Their almost unimaginable size led scientists to research the feeding methods that allow them to support such large body masses.

In order to feed, blue whales dive to incredible depths of over 500 meters and “… lunge into the swarms of tiny krill above them…” During these strikes, blue whales ingest enormous amounts of water littered with tiny krill. The water slowly filters out, leaving the krill to be digested by their enormous predator.

Recently, two scientists from the University of California, Robert Shadwick and Jeremy Goldbogen, conducted a study to determine how efficient blue whales are at filter-feeding. These scientific researchers collected their data by tracking ”…265 blue whales as they carried out 200 foraging dives and 654 lunges.” The study produced astounding results that prove blue whales to be the most energy efficient creatures in the world.

According to the data gathered, blue whales spend a lot of energy capturing their tiny prey; however, these enormous creatures end up gaining “… 90 times the energy they use…” from the bounty of their hunt. This discovery explains blue whales’ ability to keep a migratory lifestyle as well as the ability for the females to produce “…enormous volumes of milk for their calves.”

The varieties of adaptations deep-water animals have gone through in order to maximize their chances of survival are truly astounding. Considering their gargantuan size, it makes sense that the largest living mammals need enormous amounts of energy to support their frames. However, it is truly mind-boggling how well-adapted to their environment an animal can become after going through thousands of years of natural selection.

Written by: Sergey Chikvashvili

Read the full article at: http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn19841-blue-whale-feeding-methods-are-ultraefficient.html

 

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