Suddenly out of the deep blue water appears a whale shark directly beneath me. The gentle giant moved gracefully to the surface of the water and began feeding next to me. I had been snorkeling off the coast of Tofo in Mozambique and felt that this was a dream come true. Experiences like this make me appreciate the variety of nature’s feeding techniques. You see whale sharks and baleen whales are both filter feeders, animals that eat by straining tiny food, like plankton, from the water. But how they go about filter feeding is completely different.
In whale sharks, teeth don’t play a major role in feeding. In one of their filter-feeding methods, they suction water into their mouths at high velocities while remaining stationary. Food moves through filtering pads that cover the entrance of their throats. The filtering pads are broad mess pads full of millimeter-wide pores that act like a sieve, allowing water to pass through while capturing food particles. Continue reading »
The next day, Humboldt County residents anxiously followed a similar story as agencies descended upon Humboldt Bay’s southern peninsula in hopes of saving a juvenile gray whale spotted tangled in ropes from drifting crab pots. The Coast Guard, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association and California Department of Fish and Game, along with help from Humboldt State University professors worked together to free the whale. Local whale expert HSU professor Dawn Goley reported success, but feared the injuries incurred may be too much for the young whale’s survival. We’re hoping for a happy ending to this sad story.
Those at sea or on the beach who spot a tangled whale are urged to contact NOAA. And to prevent this sort of harm from happening in the future, I urge everyone to help reduce ocean trash, including fishing gear, to protect all species of whales — and every creature inhabiting the ocean!