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Sometimes Blue Whales Do Barrel Rolls While They Eat

If you were to attach yourself to a Blue Whale, this is what you would see

Largest and smallest whale (Blue Whale and Hector Dolphine). Image: T. Bjornstad

If you were to attach yourself to a Blue Whale, this is basically what you would see:

You’re watching the animal feed on krill here: They do 360º body rolls while they eat. Nature writes:

The 30-second manoeuvre — two half turns, performed either side of engulfing a meal — 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 inBiology Letters.

They’re not the only animals to do this—spinner dolphins do too, apparently. But the blue whale is the largest living animal on the planet, so one might not expect it to be particularly agile. In fact, the blue whale doesn’t do this roll every time. It only employs the barrel roll about 10 percent of the time.

Let’s talk for a second about just how big that blue whale is. It’s probably the largest animal that’s ever  lived on earth. Look at this:

Blue whales can get over 100 feet long, and weight up to 200 tons. Every day they eat about 4 tons of krill. That’s four Honda Accords in Krill each day.

More from Smithsonian.com:

A Whale of a Carbon Sink
How Did Whales Evolve?

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About Rose Eveleth
Rose Eveleth

Rose Eveleth is a writer for Smart News and a producer/designer/ science writer/ animator based in Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Scientific American, Story Collider, TED-Ed and OnEarth.

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