Tagged blue whale in SOCAL-BRS project (Taken under NMFS permit #14534, J. Calambokidis)

We wanted to pass along a recent manuscript on optimal foraging in blue whales as a function of oxygen use and prey density.

Hazen, E., Friedlaender, A., & Goldbogen, J. A. 2015. Blue whales change their foraging strategies relative to prey density. Scientific Advances, e1500469

The abstract is below and the full text is open access and available at:


Terrestrial predators can modulate the energy used for prey capture to maximize efficiency, but diving animals face the conflicting metabolic demands of energy intake and the minimization of oxygen depletion during a breath hold. It is thought that diving predators optimize their foraging success when oxygen use and energy gain act as competing currencies, but this hypothesis has not been rigorously tested because it has been difficult to measure the quality of prey that is targetedby free-ranging animals. We used high-resolution multisensor digital tags attached to foraging blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus) with concurrent acoustic prey measurements to quantify foraging performance across depth and prey density gradients. We parameterized two competing physiological models to estimate energy gain and expenditure based on foraging decisions. Our analyses show that at low prey densities, blue whale feeding rates and energy intake were low to minimize oxygen use, but at higher prey densities feeding frequency increased to maximize energy intake. Contrary to previous paradigms, we demonstrate that blue whales are not indiscriminate grazers but instead switch foraging strategies in response to variation in prey density and depth to maximize energetic efficiency.


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SOCAL-BRS is a study of basic behavior and responses to controlled sound exposures in a variety of marine mammal species.

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