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How Humpback Whales Are Tricking Fish Into Getting Eaten

The clever new hunting method requires no energy from the whale, and it works like a charm.

Humpback whales are pretty much always looking for their next meal. It takes a lot of fish and krill to feed an animal this big.

Because of their insatiable hunger, the whales have devised a few ingenious hunting methods.

According to Science, the first two are pretty common, and you've probably heard and/or seen them before. But the third is a new tactic only just recently studied.

To start, humpback whales are known for their lunge feeding.


That's when they speed toward their meal with an open mouth and scoop up as much fish as possible before closing their mouths.

According to SF Gate, sometimes they trap the fish against the surface of the water so they have no escape. Then the whales will lunge from below to scoop them up. That's called vertical lunge feeding.

Another tactic is bubble net feeding.

This is when the whales will work together to make a ring of bubbles that traps the fish inside for easy pickings.

But the new method is perhaps the most ingenious yet, because it requires pretty much no energy.

According to Science, research published in Marine Mammal Science reported that some humpback whales are now engaging in what's called trap feeding.

It's when a humpback whale keeps its mouth open really wide when birds are feeding on fish below.

Giphy/Science Magazine

The fish are scared of the birds and swim into the open mouth, thinking it's a shelter.

But, surprise! It's not.

Giphy/Science Magazine

According to Science, this is a learned behavior because where it was once spotted in just one whale in 2011, it's since spread to 20. It seems that whales that hang out together are teaching each other this lazy, but effective method of hunting.

And they seem to employ it when fish schools are thinner, according to the Marine Education and Research Society. That's likely because the effort it takes to lunge or bubble feed isn't worth it if they're getting just a few fish.

But, hey, if some swim into your already open mouth while you're just chilling? That's a big win for the whale at a very low cost.

Watch the full video of this genius method below:

Snippet: New humpback whale fishing tactic—pretending to be a pond

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