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Keywords:

  • Globicephala melas;
  • pilot whale;
  • suction feeding;
  • prey capture;
  • foraging;
  • behavior

Abstract

Analysis of videotaped feeding sequences provides novel documentation of suction feeding in captive juvenile long-finned pilot whales (Globicephala melas). Swimming and stationary whales were videotaped while feeding at the surface, mid-water, and bottom. The ingestion sequence includes a preparatory phase with partial gape followed by jaw opening and rapid hyoid depression to suck in prey at a mean distance of 14 cm (duration 90 msec), although prey were taken from much greater distances. Depression and retraction of the large, piston-like tongue generate negative intraoral pressures for prey capture and ingestion. Food was normally ingested without grasping by teeth yet was manipulated with lingual, hyoid, and mandibular movement for realignment; suction was then used to transport prey into the oropharynx. Whales frequently rolled or inverted before taking prey, presumably to avoid grasping and repositioning. Prey were sucked off the bottom or sides of the pool without direct contact; lateral suction was used to ingest items from the sides of the mouth.