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Extraordinary footage of blue whales in South Taranaki Bight

22 April 2017

"Blue whales are the biggest animals on earth, and it's incredible, their ecology, how they have to make a life in the ocean feeding on the smallest, well, some of the smallest animals in the ocean, little bitty krill", Torres explained. "Our footage shows this theory in action", Torres said. The whales are so massive - sometimes growing to the length of three school buses - that they must carefully balance the energy gained through their food intake with the energetic costs of feeding.

The video taken off New Zealand by scientists from Oregon State University in the U.S. shows just how the whales pick and choose their meals.

Scientists say this footage shows "lunge-feeding" is so energy-intensive, these whales won't waste their time on low-reward prey patches.

The reason why drone are so useful for this type of research is that the whales don't notice that the drone is above them
The reason why drone are so useful for this type of research is that the whales don't notice that the drone is above them

The footage reveals how a blue whale cruises toward a large mass of krill-around the same size as the whale itself-before turning on its side, mouth agape, and vacuuming up nearly the entire patch.

"The whale bypasses certain krill patches - presumably because the nutritional payoff isn't sufficient - and targets other krill patches that are more lucrative", Torres said.

Around the 30-second mark, the footage shows the blue whale approaching a krill patch and turn on its side before slowing down to consume it.

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She explained that the lunge required the whales to slow down dramatically, and the effort of lunging then speeding up again could be more than the energy offered by a smaller group of krill.

"It would be like me driving a auto and braking every 100 years, then accelerating again", Torres said. "Whales need to be choosy about when to apply the brakes to feed on a patch of krill". The mammal then turns on its side and lunges itself into the krill patch at about 6.7 miles per hour.

One small flight for drones has the potential to be one giant step for science. just ask researchers at Oregon State University.

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"This is something we often see from the boat. with the drone we were able to get this remarkable new perspective", Leigh Torres, a marine spatial ecologist at Oregon State, said in the video.

However, rare drone footage of the elusive creatures feeding off New Zealand proves they can be picky eaters when necessary, too.

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Extraordinary footage of blue whales in South Taranaki Bight