The West

Whales feeding secrets revealed

The feeding habits of Antarctic minke whales have been recorded for the first time - and they are out-eating their much bigger cousins by a long shot.

WA-trained Nick Gales is chief scientist of the Australian Antarctic Division and said researchers from the US and Australia first attached multi-sensor suction-cup satellite tags to the minke whales last year.

The data showed the mammals lunged forward to gorge on krill up to 100 times every hour, far more than other species.

"Prior to this work, the movements and diving behaviour of these whales was something of a mystery, as no tags had been deployed on the species," Dr Gales said.

"We found that the minkes were swimming just beneath the sea ice, feeding at incredibly high rates, taking mouthfuls of krill every 30 seconds.

"This is very different from other whale behaviour. For example, the gigantic blue whales lunge up to four times during a dive and smaller humpbacks lunge up to 12 times."

Dr Gales said the minkes' size and agility allowed them to take advantage of the environment, where krill collects under the sea ice, but warned that any change in the ice had the potential to impact on their foraging habits.

The article on the study was published in the Journal of Experimental Biology yesterday.

The West Australian

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