Whale flippers in the air … but what is happening under the surface?!?

Glimpsing into Bryde’s Whale (Balaenoptera edeni) feeding behavior from a bird-eye perspective! Video courtesy of Lorenzo Fiori and Auckland University of Technology.

A few days ago we had the incredible chance to encounter two Blue Whales (Balaenoptera musculus), a Fin Whale (Balaenoptera physalusand a Sei Whale (Balaenoptera borealisswimming…sideways! This was spectacular but what was actually happening under the water surface is even more astonishing to see.

Baleen whales belonging to Balaenopteride genus often turn on their side to feed on krill or plankton. While they turn, they open their massive mouths and engorge tons of water together with their preys. Their ventral grooves expand and they can become up to three times larger than usual! Suddenly their lunging movement stops, probably as result of the huge drag, and they turn back to their ventral position. The tongue pushes out the water through the baleen plates (check one of our WHALEZONE.TV episodes for more info about baleen plates) and preys remain trapped in the mouth.

Somebody used to say “a picture says a thousand words”, I say that “a video says a billion”! To have a better idea of baleen whale feeding behavior check the video above and let me show you what it looks like from a 5 kg waterproof custom built drone! 😀

Drones, as well as other novel technologies, are really changing the way we can investigate cetacean behavior (Nowacek et al. 2016Fiori et al. 2017). Stay with us for other exciting insights into the methodologies to study the behavioral ecology of dolphins and whales! 🙂


One of the two Blue Whales (Balaenoptera musculus) encountered by Terra Azul boat lunges through the water sideways exposing half of its huge caudal fin…


…and suddenly lifts its pectoral flipper!

Lorenzo Fiori

About Lorenzo Fiori

Lorenzo is Main Guide and Technical & Scientific Director at TERRA AZUL. He is originally from Italy, holds a PhD about behavioral responses of humpback whales to swim-with-whales tourism activities in Tonga.

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