Humpback Whales in Canada Get Fish to Swim Right Into Their Mouths

iStock.com/psahota
iStock.com/psahota

Humpback whales are incredibly intelligent creatures, so it’s perhaps no surprise that they’re also savvy hunters. As Cosmos magazine reports, humpbacks off the northeastern coast of Vancouver Island have been seen tricking fish into swimming directly into their open mouths.

These cetaceans usually lunge toward their prey, and since they're about the size of a school bus, this is generally a pretty sound method. However, researchers spotted two humpback whales testing out a totally new tactic in 2011. Instead of chasing after fish, the crafty cetaceans were seen holding still while looking up towards the sky with half of their heads poking above the water. When they open their jaws, the dark recesses inside their mouths can easily be mistaken for a safe harbor, where fish might seek refuge from predatory seabirds. The cetaceans also use their pectoral fins to draw water towards them, and once the Pacific herring have been lured inside, they snap their powerful jaws shut. On average, they keep their mouths open for 18 to 90 seconds.

“The whale is providing a shadow or shelter,” Christie McMillan, executive director of the Marine Education and Research Society, tells The Vancouver Sun. “It’s like a Venus flytrap, a sit-and-wait idea. It’s not working so well for the herring, but it’s working for the whales.”

This trap-feeding technique was described for the first time by researchers from the society in a recent issue of Marine Mammal Science. Even more remarkably, the behavior seems to be spreading, which means the whales might be learning from each other. Only two humpbacks were spotted using the technique in 2011, but 16 were seen trap-feeding in 2015.

“Based on the rapid diffusion of the behavior and the characteristics of the prey consumed using this technique, trap-feeding appears to be an energetically efficient method of foraging on juvenile herring that is culturally transmitted between humpback whales," the researchers write in their paper.

The behavior hasn’t yet spread among humpbacks beyond British Columbia, as far as researchers can tell. However, Bryde’s whales in the Gulf of Thailand have exhibited similar feeding behaviors, according to The Vancouver Sun.

[h/t Cosmos]

The Tower of London Welcomes New Baby Ravens for the First Time in 30 Years

Some of the baby ravens born at the Tower of London
Some of the baby ravens born at the Tower of London
Tower of London Twitter (screenshot)

There are some new residents at the Tower of London. They're only about 11 inches tall, are very noisy, and eat rats for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Fortunately, they're also adorable—not to mention protected by legend.

On May 17, the Tower of London announced that their breeding pair of ravens, Huginn and Muninn, had welcomed four healthy chicks, the first born at the Tower since 1989. The ravens are part of an unkindness that's been located at the Tower for centuries as a sort of protective asset. According to legend, the Tower must always have ravens, or both the Tower and the kingdom will fall. It's not exactly clear when the legend began, but according to the Tower, Charles II decreed there must always be six ravens present.

Huginn and Muninn are newer additions, having arrived at the Tower in late 2018, and they weren't expected to breed this spring. So it was a surprise in mid-April when the devoted Tower Ravenmaster, Yeoman Warder Chris Skaife, noticed something exciting going on. "My suspicions were first piqued that we might have a chance of baby chicks when the parents built a huge nest suddenly overnight and then almost immediately the female bird started to sit on it," Skaife said in a Tower press release. On April 23, Skaife noticed the birds flying to the nest with food, but it was only this week he was able to get close enough to see the four healthy chicks. The sight delighted him: "Having worked with the ravens here at the Tower for the last 13 years and getting to know each of them, I feel like a proud father!"

The chicks have grown quickly, already quadrupling in size since they were born, and eat a diet of quail, rats, and mice the Ravenmaster provides. The raven parents have an egalitarian feeding arrangement: Huginn, the male, preps the food and passes it to Muninn, the female, who feeds it to her tiny chicks.

The plan is for one of the chicks to stay at the Tower and join the rest of the ravens there. "As the ravens started to hatch on the 23 April, St. George’s Day, the raven that will be staying at the Tower will be called George or Georgina in honor of the occasion," the Tower explained in a press release. According to The Telegraph, the breeding program at the Tower kicked off in response to a decline in the number of legal raven breeders in the UK.

The last raven chick born at the Tower was Ronald Raven, born May 1, 1989. In his 2018 book, The Ravenmaster: My Life with the Ravens at the Tower of London, Skaife wrote that "a baby raven looks a bit like a grotesque miniature gargoyle, but then you see them grow and develop ... It really is wonderful."

The baby ravens born at the Tower of London in 2019
The baby ravens born at the Tower of London in 2019 making some noise
Yeoman Warder Chris Skaife

Dozens of Donkeys, Mini-Donkeys, and Baby Donkeys Are Looking for New Homes

iStock.com/huggy1
iStock.com/huggy1

Cats and dogs aren't the only rescue animals that need permanent homes. At the Humane Society of North Texas (HSNT), there are over 60 donkeys, miniature donkeys, baby donkeys, and Thoroughbred horses up for adoption, the Cleburne Times-Review reports.

Many of the equines at HSNT's ranch in Joshua, Texas came from owners who had to give them up, and others were transferred from different animal rescue groups. As part of the ASPCA’s Help A Horse Home Challenge, HSNT is hosting events to help find new homes for its horses and donkeys.

Between April 26 and June 30 this year, the ASPCA is challenging equine organizations to adopt out as many animals as they can. The groups that see the biggest increases in adoptions between this year and last year's Help A Horse Home Challenge will share $150,000 in grant funding. On May 18 and June 8, HSNT is holding open houses at its ranch for anyone interested in adopting an animal. The events will also be used as opportunities to educate the public about the demands of equine ownership.

If you're not free to swing by one of HSNT's open houses, you can still apply to adopt a horse or donkey. Interested owners can fill out and submit this form [PDF] to equine@hsnt.org. And if you'd like to spend time with baby and mini-donkeys without taking one home, HSNT is also looking for volunteers.

[h/t Cleburne Times-Review]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER