The largest animals on earth emulate ballerinas before killing their prey.
Blue whales pirouette before lunging to consume krill, according to a study co-written by Ari Friedlaender, assistant research scientist in marine science and conservation, that was published in Biology Letters Nov. 28. Friedlaender said the strategy most likely allows the whales to engulf as many of the tiny crustaceans as possible.
Friedlaender and his teammates equipped 22 blue whales—which are the largest animals to ever live, measuring nearly 100 feet long—with motion sensors using suction cups, and attached a camera to one of the whales.
After reviewing the data and footage, the Duke team found that half of the whales spun around 360 degrees underwater, often just before lunging for their prey.
Whales locate swarms of krill from below, and then move quickly upward toward them. The spinning sometimes occurs during the surge to capture the krill, significantly slowing down the whales’ upward progress. This may allow the giant aqueous mammals to change direction more quickly as krill attempt to escape their imminent doom, allowing the whales to catch the krill before they are out of reach.
The balletic moves occurred only before or between lunges for krill, indicating that the strategy is used to more effectively hunt and is not merely an outlet of artistic expression for the whales.