Ahoy there, Anipals! This is your captain, Herman TattleCat, welcoming you aboard the St. Herman whale watching vessel.
For today’s trip we venture into the cold icy waters of Southeast Alaska’s Inside Passage where humpback whales are known to hang out in the summer months.
A couple years ago my pawrents took an Alaskan cruise where they enjoyed whale watching. They also got to witness a bubble net, although Mom’s camera was set to photographs and not video at the moment one happened right in front of their eyes. *shakes head in disgust*
So! Without further delay, board the St. Herman and prepare for a wonderpurr afternoon of whale watching.
About Bubble-Net Feeding
Bubble-net feeding is not instinctual, it is learned. Not every population of humpbacks know how to bubble net feed according to some studies.
Humpback whales use vocalizations to communicate to one another in order to effectively and efficiently execute the bubble net in order for them all to feed.
As the group circles a school of small fish such as salmon, krill or herring they use a team effort to disorient and corral the fish into a net of bubbles.
One whale will typically begin to exhale out of their blowhole beneath the surface at the school of fish to begin the process. More whales will also start to blow bubbles while continuing to circle their prey.
They corral the fish into a tight circle while creating a net of bubbles to surround the fish and keep them from escaping. The size of the net created can range from three to thirty meters in diameter.
One whale will sound a feeding call, at which point all whales simultaneously swim upwards with mouths open to feed on the trapped fish.
As the whales swim up to the surface to feed they can hold up to 15,000 gallons of sea water as they use their baleen plates to strain the water to get the maximum amount of fish they need.
Humpback whales have 14 to 35 throat grooves that run from the top of the chin all the way down to the navel. These grooves allow the mouth to expand. When they swallow they blow the sea water out from their blowhole as they ingest the fish. The fish that they ingest are also a source of hydration for them.
Bubble netting is an advanced and necessary feeding method developed by humpback whales to feed multiple mouths at one time.
The sounds you hear in the below video are from one whale that is in charge of herding the fish while the others form a barrier with bubbles. The pitched tone is a signal to the others to move the fish towards the surface.
Hope you had a Wonderpurr time whale watching. Be sure to tell your furends.