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WATCH: The secret feeding habits of whales in Antarctica

Attaching a camera. Image: Australian Antarctic Division

Cameras attached to whales in Antarctica are uncovering the feeding habits of the ocean mammals.

They were placed on the backs of humpback and minke whales by Australian and US scientists working off the Antarctic Peninsula in the Gerlache Strait.

“The tags show the feeding methods used by the humpbacks in this area of Antarctica, including footage showing the whales lunge feeding into tight swarms of krill,” says Australian Antarctic Division researcher Mike Double.

Here’s footage from the whale cams:

The camera tags are attached by suction cups to the back of the whales for about 24 hours, before they detach and are retrieved.

The data collected allows the scientists to reconstruct the feeding behaviour of the whales in great detail.

The non-lethal research helps determine how any change in krill population due to climate change, commercial fishing, or ocean acidification, may impact the whales.

Mink whale dorsal right side showing tracker. Image: Copyright Dave Brosha/Australian Antarctic Division.

The researchers also deployed longer-term LIMPET tags on smaller minke whales.

Whale research scientist Elanor Bell says there’s very little information on minke feeding behaviour.

The smaller minke whales live in Antarctic waters while humpbacks migrate north during winter months.

“Minkes are faster and more elusive than humpback whales and often forage in areas with lots of sea ice,” Dr Bell says.

“This makes it challenging to find and approach them to deploy tracking equipment.

“So it was really exciting to be able to attach some LIMPET tags on this voyage. These will transmit the location and dive depth data to satellites every time they surface for up to two months.”

The research is being conducted through the International Whaling Commission’s Southern Ocean Research Partnership, supported by One Ocean Expeditions and WWF-Australia.

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