Researchers investigated and discovered the hunting patterns of the elusive beluga whales swimming through the freezing waters across the Arctic. For a very long time, the marine mammals have remained a mystery. Now, scientists are a step closer to understanding the rare creatures.
- Researchers reviewed data of migration and hunting patterns of 30 beluga whales
- The tracking began in 1993
- They found that beluga whales can dive as deep as 1,000 feet into the cold water in search for food
- The study confirmed their suggested prey: the Arctic cod
Researchers from the University of Washington have analyzed data that spanned 13 years, starting in 1993. They worked with Alaska Native communities, along with Aboriginal tribes in Canada for the purpose of tagging the elusive beluga whales. The marine mammals are notoriously difficult to track due to the very cold and harsh conditions that make their home. However, the advancement of technology assisted them in discovering new information.
The team analyzed the patterns of 30 beluga whales making home in the Bering Sea for the winter. However, through the summer months, the marine mammals swim north to the Beaufort and Chuckhi Sea as the Arctic sea ice melts. These migration patterns have been a great interest to scientists, who could only estimate they were following their prey. More specifically, they were following swarms of Arctic cod.
According to the tagging data gathered, the researchers found that the beluga whales were, indeed, going after the fish. Even more, they dived between 650 to 1,000 feet below the surface of the freezing waters to hunt their prey. It’s an exceptional ability that was previously unknown about the rare creatures. In fact, they can adapt themselves to the topography of the sea floor. Whether they need to dive down to the sea bed or navigate around slopes, it all depends on their chase of the Arctic cod.
According to lead author of the study, Donna Hauser from the university’s School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, this offers researchers a “benchmark of the distribution and foraging patterns” for two of the beluga whale populations. Of course, additional study is required to understand more about these elusive creatures. It’s fortunate that they often swim close to the shore, which makes tagging them easy.
From there though, they dive deep into the cold waters to maximize the amount of food available. It makes them incredibly difficult to study, especially since they roam remote locations in the Arctic.
The interest was further propelled by the changing climate that might soon alter the patterns. The researchers are interested to see how these will affect their migration or hunting habits.
Image source: earthrangers.com