Bubblenet Feeding Humpback Whales (Megaptera novaeangliae), Alaska, USA

- Image ID: E4HC57
Bubblenet Feeding Humpback Whales (Megaptera novaeangliae), Alaska, USA
Peter Carey / Alamy Stock Photo
Image ID: E4HC57
Along the inside waters of Southeast Alaska each summer there congregates large numbers of humpback whales looking to fatten up before heading south in the winter for breeding and calving groups in warmer climates. One method for feeding requires uncommon cooperation amongst the whales who are normally solitary eaters. The whales will all dive below a school of fish and then one whale will start to exhale, causing bubbles to rise. The exhalation will continue in a circular pattern which creates a boundary the smaller prey fish typically do no cross. When a sounding signal is given, all the whales in the group, ranging from a few whales to a dozen or more, will charge for the surface with their mouths wide open to catch as many fish as possible before breaking the surface. In this image you can see the pleats on the underside of the whale mouths that expands to let in more water. The mouth is then closed and the water forced out by the massive whale tongue. The small fish are caught in the whales baleen plates, seen clearly as in the upper whale's mouth as large hair looking structures, and then swallowed. Noting that a humpback whales upper jaw is smaller than the lower, what you are witnessing in the whale at the top of the photo is an upside down whale. The whale below it in the image, with its pleats showing and both pectoral fins visible, is also upside down and has finished its breach. There is a third whale between these two. If you look closely, can you also spot the lucky fish that got away? This time....