It’s one of the most unique things you will see in the wild. A humpback whale swimming in a circular pattern while blowing bubbles to create a “net” to encircle its prey. It’s a regular occurrence in the cold blue-green waters of Southeast Alaska, and University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa researchers and their collaborators have captured it on video from an amazing whale’s-point-of-view along with aerial video. The team used cameras and sensors attached to the whales with suction cups, coupled with drones to capture the video and important data for a project investigating causes of a possible decline in the humpback whale numbers.
“The footage is rather groundbreaking,” said Lars Bejder, director of the UH Mānoa Marine Mammal Research Program (MMRP). “We’re observing how these animals are manipulating their prey and preparing the prey for capture. It is allowing us to gain new insights that we really haven’t been able to do before.”
Bejder, UH Mānoa PhD student Martin van Aswegen, and key collaborator Andy Szabo, Alaska Whale Foundation director, recently observed and recorded the humpback whale bubble-net behaviors that they hope will shed light on shifts in habitat use and changes in food availability linked to prey depletion and climate change.