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November 28 2012

Blue whales pirouette for food

The world's largest animal can be as agile as a ballet dancer when it is hungry. Video cameras and motion sensors strapped to 22 blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus) reveal that they sometimes incorporate underwater pirouettes â 360º body rolls â as they lunge at patches of krill from below.

The 30-second manoeuvre â two half turns, performed either side of engulfing a meal â enables the whales to position their jaws underneath their prey and to take the biggest mouthful possible before the krill scatter, says Jeremy Goldbogen, a zoologist at the Cascadia Research Collective in Washington, who led the work. The findings are published today in Biology Letters.

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