Teamwork and Humpback Whales

The humpback whale is a majestic creature. Once hunted to near extinction, the massive mammals, growing to lengths of greater than 50 feet and weights of over 75,000 pounds, are slowly making a comeback due to their protected status.

Easily identifiable by their obvious hump and knobby surface, the humpback has a powerful and long, black and white dorsal fin, that’s up to a third of their body length.

One of the coolest things about the humpback is their practice of bubble netting—their way of catching dinner. Humpback whales hunt as a team, one made up of bubblers, herders, and vocalizers.

In a highly coordinated attack, the whales dive down together and each one moves into position. The herders circle a group of small fish or herring and keep them contained, while the caller dives below the shoal (another word for a group of fish swimming together) and emits a deafening cry. This 180 decibels of sound pressure drives the fish upward to escape from the noise. Then the whale ring leader comes into position circling above the shoal, emitting an inescapable fizzing ring of bubbles—a bubble net—effectively capturing the herring. All the whales then gather beneath the fish and dive upward together with mouths full of baleen wide open (whales don’t have teeth, just a comb of bristles called baleen), consuming up to half a ton of fish a day per whale.  That’s a lot of fish –– and also one extremely coordinated and strategic effort.  Bravo team whale!

[So which one would you be: a bubbler, herder or vocalizer? For more information on humpback whales, check out the exceptional work of One World One Ocean here, an organization working to protect and restore the health of our oceans.]


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