Blue whale is the largest animal that has ever lived and it must really have a large appetite to match its body size. The strategy it uses to forage food however has remained largely a secret.
The information scientists have about blue whales is that they are filter feeders. What are filter feeders? These animals have plates in their mouth to filter food, and in this case blue whale eats krill so it filters krill from the ocean.
Krill is so small that we can’t really see them with human eyes.
When feeding, blue whales dive into the depths of ocean, accelerating and taking in as much water as 130 percent of their body weight. Blue whales can eat as much as 4 tons of krill per day.
New study has shed some light on the eating habits on the blue whale. The study is conducted off the coast of California.
The study revealed that blue whales do discriminate when it comes to krill i.e. they feed only on krill when the counts aver very high, and choosing to conserve their oxygen for future dives when the krill counts are low.
Elliott Hazen, a research ecologist from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries Science Center said, “We found that blue whales have a complex strategy of switching from conserving oxygen when prey quality is low, to intense foraging at the expense of oxygen when prey quality is high.”
Blue whales asses their environment to take advantage of their prey in ways that were unknown until the study. This maximizes energy gain from the krill that the whale eats.
Blue whales are widely distributed in the oceans around the world, but they are now endangered species because of the whaling practices in the past century. The current count of whales is around 10,000 around the world, and they can be as long as 30 meters and weigh up to 165 tons.
Researchers and scientists hope that the new study will help them in figuring out how to better protect the blue whales.