Skip to content
All news
  • All news
  • About whales & dolphins
  • Create healthy seas
  • End captivity
  • Prevent bycatch
  • Prevent deaths in nets
  • Science
  • Stop whaling
Gray whale deaths have spiked on the West Coast

Pacific Gray Whale Population Drops by Nearly 25%

Being taken off the endangered species list sadly doesn't guarantee a carefree future for whales. ...
ng_sotw_keyart_horizontal_771e84e0

Enter to win a virtual ticket to the pre-screening of National Geographic’s “Secrets of the Whales”

This 4-part series plunges viewers deep within the epicenter of whale culture to experience the...
Image: Peter Flood

I signed a petition…now what?

More than ever before, critically endangered North Atlantic right whales have really stolen my heart...
Southern resident orca

Home of Southern Resident Orcas Named a Mission Blue Hope Spot

WDC is proud to be among the groups supporting the declaration of the Salish Sea,...

Scientists discover new humpback whale feeding technique

Humpback whale

Humpback whales are renowned for the many different ways they catch their prey, such as lunge-feeding, kick-feeding, bubble-netting and many more.

However, up-to-now scientists have been unable to work out how the whales might use their five-metre long pectoral flippers to help catch their food.

Finally, using aerial observations and photographs, they have been able to record whales off the coast of Alaska using their flippers in a technique they have called 'pectoral herding'.

The flippers are used in three distinct ways:

  1. To stop prey escaping.
  2. To move water to guide prey into their mouth.
  3. By flashing the bright, white underside of the flipper to confuse the fish when there is sunlight on the water.

The technique was observed in humpbacks feeding in one particular area in Alaska. The humpbacks have learnt to time their arrival each year to coincide with the release of young salmon from a hatchery in the area. One theory as to why the technique was observed here is that herring, which are a more common prey for humpbacks, naturally school close together when threatened, and are therefore easier to catch using other techniques. Salmon on the other hand do not school so readily so need some extra effort to get them together, hence the use of the flippers.

WDC policy manager, Nicola Hodgins, described the feeding technique as 'Quite ingenious behaviour, which if successful, as it appears to be, will be passed down to future generations.'

Read the article:
Pectoral herding: an innovative tactic for humpback whale foraging
Madison M. Kosma,Alexander J. Werth,Andrew R. Szabo and Janice M. Straley
Royal Society Open Science

Related News

Text says "Does social and racial justice have a place in saving whales? Then below that is a simple drawing of a humpback whale and to the right of the whale, white text says "Yes, it does." In small text, whales.org is at the bottom.

Does social and racial justice have a place in saving whales?

The short answer is YES. The planet needs whales and whales need us, ALL of us, not just some of us. Whales have a very...
basketball hoop graphic

Humpback whale “swallows” a diver? Not exactly.

For any media inquiries, please give us a call at 508-746-2522. Let's break it down - Could a diver fit in a humpback whale's mouth?...
Photo courtesy of Mystic Aquarium

Belugas arrive in US despite objections from WDC and others

Photo courtesy of Mystic Aquarium Any international movement of captive-held whales and dolphins risks encouraging further wild captures and trade around the world and perpetuates...
Image of commercial whale watch boat with lots of passengers onboard with a humpback fluke in the foreground

Three new companies join the Whale SENSE community

Working on the Whale SENSE program ties together two of my favorite things - whales and my home state. In 2011, the first New Jersey...

Leave a Comment