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Hunting Whales

June 26, 2006

Killer whales sing for their meals.


Whales that sing for their supper. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

[Sounds of killer whales hunting]

These Icelandic killer whales aren’t making these sounds for fun—they’re using them to hunt their favorite food: herring. That’s according to Lee Miller and his colleagues at the University of Southern Denmark, who recorded the sounds. As the whales close in on their prey, they smack their tails underwater. The thud stuns the fish. What’s more, Miller’s team discovered that Icelandic killer whales produce a steady tone just before the tail slap.

LEE MILLER (University of Southern Denmark):
So you always hear like a sound, dooo…

[Whale tone]


[Whale tail slap]

And we think that maybe this sound will cause the fish to get into a tighter ball.

…making it easier for the whales to get a meal. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.