Melbourne: Scientists have for the first time recorded the feeding behaviour of Antarctic minke whales under the sea ice and found that the mammals lunge feed up to 100 times per hour, gorging on Antarctic krill.
Scientists from the US and Australia attached multi-sensor suction cup satellite tags to minke whales off the west Antarctic Peninsula last year to study their foraging patterns.
Australian Antarctic Division Chief Scientist, Dr Nick Gales, said the tags measured the whales` orientation, depth and acceleration.
"Prior to this work the movements and diving behaviour of these whales was something of a mystery as no tags had been deployed on the species," Gales said.
"We found that the minkes were swimming just beneath the sea ice, feeding at incredibly high rates, taking mouthfuls of krill every 30 seconds.
"This is very different from other whale behaviour, for example the gigantic blue whales lunge up to four times during a dive and smaller humpbacks lunge up to 12 times.
The study also found the minkes` size and manoeuvrability allows them to take advantage of the sea ice habitat.
"The minke`s preferred prey, Antarctic krill, aggregate under the sea ice and attract the whales to the area, leading to these feeding frenzies," Gales said.
"But any future change in sea ice has the potential to impact on the minke whales` foraging habits," Gales added.
The study was published in the Journal of Experimental Biology.