Humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) lunging during cooperative feeding using a bubble net, Point Hayes, Chatham Strait, Southeast Alaska, USA.
This photo clearly illustrates how distended the whales’ throat becomes when they lunge to the surface. They can dislocate their jaws like a snake does, and when they first reach the surface their jaws are open almost a full 180 degrees and their throat-poach hangs from their lower jaw like the throat-pouch of a pelican. The colouration of the throats varies and it was another means of identifying individuals. The open ventral pleats of this one appear to be pink because of the lack of pigmentation revealing the blood-rich tissue beneath. They really are a curious sight when their throats are fully distended like that, and they reminded me of Jabba the Hutt from the Star Wars movies.
The formation of this bubble net feeding group also shows how there is always at least one lead whale that surfaces vertically, while the rest appear in a more lateral position around it. The individual whales that are regular members of the feeding group always maintain the same position in the tightly choreographed arrangement during the feeding ascent.
- Duncan Murrell
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