Drones capture blue whales feeding off the coast of New Zealand

- Oregon State University released rare footage of a giant blue whale feeding off the coast of New Zealand.

The university used a drone to capture the moment on camera.

The video shows a blue whale cruising toward a large mass of krill - roughly the size of the whale itself. The mammal then turns on its side and lunges itself into the krill patch at about 6.7 miles per hour.

“We were lucky enough to film a surface lunge-feeding blue whale, which was remarkable. So this is something we often see from the boat, and we see splashing, and we can tell the animal turns on its side, but with the drone, we were able to get this remarkable new perspective,” explained Leigh Torres with the Marine Mammal Institute of Oregon State University.

Researchers analyzed the footage to measure the approximate speeds at which whales swim. Scientists say the blue whale - one of the largest animals on earth - slows down when feeding to accommodate its massive frame. 

That's why it strategically moves in to swallow krill in one gulp. And if it looks like the krill mass isn't enough, he’ll just skip over it.

“We know these animals have huge energetic demands because they are so big and it takes a lot of energy, and every time a blue whale opens its mouth, it's like putting on the brakes. It slows way down. So these animals have to make decisions about what's worth opening their mouth for,” Torres said.

Investigators with the Marine Mammal Institute of Oregon State say it offers a unique perspective on a marine animal rarely seen up close.

“Blue whales are the biggest animals on earth, and it's amazing, 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. “The more we know about how they're finding food and what makes good food for them, it will help us be able to manage their population and make sure that human activities aren’t impacting them too much.”

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