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Field Notes

Covering the natural wonders of the Pacific Northwest

Topic: blue whale

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March 8, 2013 at 7:00 AM

Open wide: Feeding the largest animal on Earth

One of the mysteries of the natural world is why and how the biggest animal alive, the blue whale, manages to feed itself on a diet of such tiny prey: krill. The tiny crustaceans are no bigger than a paper clip, yet they constitute the diet of many whales, including blue whales, fin whales, humpbacks and minkes that feed off Washington’s Coast.

To figure out how they do it, Jeremy Goldbogen, of the Cascadia Research Collective in Olympia, and his colleagues figured out how to tag swimming blue whales with a stick-on camera when they surface. Not so easy to do, by the way, on an animal bigger than a school bus. Using a long rod and adhesive to smack the camera on the surfacing whale’s back, they were able to ride along with the whale to see how it feeds. (The camera falls off in a few days, and has a transmitter on it to enable scientists to retrieve it, floating in the water.)

Here’s more on the tagging operation from Science Magazine.

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Comments | Topics: blue whale, Jeremy Goldbogen