Little Giant Whales Take 100 Gulps an Hour

The blue whale can swallow half a million calories in a single mouthful. When it spots its prey—shrimp-like creatures called krill—it lunges forward, accelerating rapidly and opening its jaws to an almost right angle. Its mouth expands, its tongue inverts, and it engulfs around 110 tonnes of water—about the same mass as another small blue whale. Over the next minute, it pushes the water through sieve-like plates, filters out the krill, and swallows. Then, having reloaded its face, it’s ready for another attack.

This sequence, known as lunge-feeding, is the signature move of the rorquals—the family of giant whales to which the blue belongs. It allows these animals ...

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