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Humpback Whales Create Mesmerizing Fibonacci Spiral to Capture Prey in Alaska

whales creating a Fibonacci spiral
Piet van den Bemd

In the frigid waters of Antarctica, humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) showcased a breathtaking example of nature’s ingenuity – a bubble net in the form of a Fibonacci spiral.

Introduction

whale bubble net
Whale bubble net. Christin Khan, NOAA / NEFSC, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Captured by polar photographer Piet van den Bemd, extraordinary drone footage revealed two humpback whales creating a perfect bubble net. Amazingly, this “net” took the form of a Fibonacci spiral, a unique phenomenon blending the beauty of mathematics with the natural world.

The Art of Bubble-Net Feeding

Screenshot from “Humpback whales created a mesmerizing Fibonacci spiral”, Source: YouTube, Uploaded: CBS News

Bubble-net feeding is a complex technique involving timing, coordination, communication, and teamwork. The whales dive below their prey and use bubbles from their blowholes to trap fish closer to the water’s surface. This method demonstrates the whales’ intelligence and highly developed hunting skills​​.

The Fibonacci Spiral: Nature’s Golden Ratio

Screenshot from “Humpback whales created a mesmerizing Fibonacci spiral”, Source: YouTube, Uploaded: CBS News

The Fibonacci spiral, also known as the golden spiral, grows by a factor of φ (the golden ratio) for every quarter turn it makes. This pattern is typical, appearing in pinecones, fruits, and vegetables. The humpback whales‘ bubble net perfectly mirrored this geometric shape, adding an element of mathematical beauty to their feeding strategy​​.

The Science Behind the Spiral

Screenshot from “Humpback whales created a mesmerizing Fibonacci spiral”, Source: YouTube, Uploaded: CBS News

Whales swim in a spiral to create a bubble net to trap fish. By blowing bubbles while swimming in circles, they form a “net” that confuses and corrals the fish into a dense ball. This makes it easier for whales to swim upwards with their mouths open, capturing large quantities of prey efficiently.

Complex Behavior and Communication

Screenshot from “Humpback whales created a mesmerizing Fibonacci spiral”, Source: YouTube, Uploaded: CBS News

Creating a Fibonacci spiral requires precise timing and coordination among the whales. This behavior is learned, indicating high intelligence and communication within whale populations.

Evolutionary Advantages

Screenshot from “Humpback whales created a mesmerizing Fibonacci spiral”, Source: YouTube, Uploaded: CBS News

The evolutionary advantage of bubble net feeding for whales is that it maximizes their feeding efficiency, allowing them to capture large amounts of prey with less effort. This strategy increases their energy intake while minimizing energy expenditure, enhancing their survival and reproductive success. Over time, whales that mastered this technique likely had better fitness and passed these skills to their offspring.

Human Observation and Its Impact

Screenshot from “Humpback whales created a mesmerizing Fibonacci spiral”, Source: YouTube, Uploaded: CBS News

This behavior highlights how working together and using innovative techniques can lead to greater efficiency and success. In human endeavors, whether in teamwork, problem-solving, or resource management, adopting collaborative and creative approaches can yield better outcomes and optimize efforts.

Ethical Wildlife Photography

Humpback whales feeding. Murray Foubister, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Piet van den Bemd’s respectful and non-intrusive approach serves as a model for wildlife photography. Ethical practices ensure minimal disturbance to natural behaviors while allowing us to witness these incredible moments.

The Role of Technology in Wildlife Study

Humpback whale in the NOAA Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary with a bubble net. NOAA, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Drone technology offers a new perspective on wildlife behavior, providing valuable insights without disrupting the animals‘ natural habitat or routines.

Conservation of Humpback Whales

Humpback whales bubble net feeding, North Pass, Southeast Alaska. Gillfoto, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

While humpback whales are not considered endangered, they still face threats from climate change, habitat loss, and human activities. Understanding their feeding patterns and behaviors is crucial for their conservation.

Threats and Challenges

Humpback Whales Bubble Net Feeding, Juneau, Alaska. Gillfoto, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Humpback whales are vulnerable to environmental changes that affect their food sources. Human activities, such as shipping and fishing, also pose significant threats.

Conservation Efforts

Humpback whales in North Pass between Lincoln Island and Shelter Island in the Lynn Canal north of Juneau, Alaska. Evadb, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Ongoing research and conservation efforts focus on protecting humpback whale habitats and ensuring sustainable human activities in these areas.

A Glimpse into the Wonders of the Natural World

Three humpback whales diving in North Pass between Lincoln Island and Shelter Island in the Lynn Canal north of Juneau, Alaska. Evadb, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The incredible footage of humpback whales creating a Fibonacci spiral while feeding is more than just a visual spectacle; it’s a testament to these majestic creatures’ complex intelligence and adaptability. It reminds us of the intricate connections between mathematics, nature, and the animal kingdom, urging us to continue exploring, understanding, and protecting the wonders of our natural world.

YouTube video
“Humpback whales created a mesmerizing Fibonacci spiral of bubbles to capture fish in Antarctica” Source: YouTube, Uploaded: CBS News

Conclusion:

Whales bubble netting. National Park Service, Alaska Region, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Thanks for reading! You can watch the video clip here.

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Linnea

Friday 19th of January 2024

Isn't nature just amazing sometimes!

Linnea

Friday 19th of January 2024

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