Whale watchers along the southern coast of South Wales witnessed an amazing phenomenon this weekend. The watchers were able to not only witness the amazing moment, but they were also able to film it for the rest of us to see. Even as the humpback whale watcher crew found themselves caught in the middle of the awesome event.
During a recent routine whale-watching mission, those aboard the Sapphire Coastal Adventures whale watching ship witnessed an event known as a “megapod.” It was a unique site for the whale-watchers as a large humpback whale group showed the crew a rare, and very unique, feeding routine.
This megapod featured more than one hundred – an estimated 150 to be a little more exact – humpback whales surrounding the boat in the middle of a feeding frenzy. The megapod had come to the area to feed on what was called a “giant baitball.”
What, exactly is a baitball? Well, in the simplest terms, it’s a fishy buffet for whales!
Watch the bird’s eye view clip courtesy of MSN here.
The Humpback Whale Megapod Finds A Way Into the Fishy Baitball
Really, the bait ball is a formation of fish created by the ocean dwellers to protect themselves from predators such as humpback whales.
A baitball occurs when a school of fish instinctively comes together in a spherical formation to expose fewer fish as larger predators approach. As the school of fish swims by the predator, they are unable to find shelter from the predators in the ocean. the bait ball is, supposed to protect the vast number of fish as the predators attack.
However, when a humpback whale group forms together in the megapod, there is little the fish can do to protect themselves. These humpback whales have found a way to work around the fishy defense mechanism; forming their own group. Working to break up the bait ball, scattering the fish for easier feeding.
“The whales are working collaboratively to sort of herd the fish together,” said Simon Millar. Millar is one of the humpback whale watchers aboard the Spahhphire Coastal Adventures; watching as the megapod displayed their unique feeding techniques.
“Some will go underneath, some off to the sides,” Millar continued. “They come up and they turn on their sides and they lunge forward and they capture the fish!”
And, it’s clear while watching the amazing spectacle, that these humpback whales are having a “whale” of a time teaming together during this unique feeding technique.
“It was quite exciting, just a huge amount of noise,” Millar added of the incredible display.
“It all happens really, really quickly, too,” the whale watcher added.
Dwindling Food Supply and An Increase In Whale Population is Leading To More Megapod Feeding Frenzies
The stunning event, known as a “megapod,” or a “mass aggregation,” was once extremely rare. However, scientists have noted the humpback whale population performing this unique feeding technique more often in recent months.
According to scientists studying the humpback whale population, and these unique megapods display an increase in the humpback population, as well as a dwindling amount of food sources available to the majestic ocean dwellers, which could be a reason behind the increase of this behavior.
Megapods such as this one are becoming more common. However, the whale watching company Sapphire Coastal Adventures notes that the sight is still rare. This is believed to be only the second time a pod of this size has been filmed in these waters.