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Title: A perfectly inelastic collision: Bulk prey engulfment by baleen whales and dynamical implications for the world’s largest cetaceans
The largest animals are the rorquals, a group of whales which rapidly engulf large aggregations of small-bodied animals along with the water in which they are embedded, with the latter subsequently expulsed via filtration through baleen. Represented by species like the blue, fin, and humpback whales, rorquals can exist in a wide range of body lengths (8–30 m) and masses (4000–190,000 kg). When feeding on krill, kinematic data collected by whale-borne biologging sensors suggest that they first oscillate their flukes several times to accelerate towards their prey, followed by a coasting period with mouth agape as the prey-water mixture is engulfed in a process approximating a perfectly inelastic collision. These kinematic data, used along with momentum conservation and time-averages of a whale’s equation of motion, show the largest rorquals as generating significant body forces (10–40 kN) in order to set into forward motion enough engulfed water to at least double overall mass. Interestingly, a scaling analysis of these equations suggests significant reductions in the amount of body force generated per kilogram of body mass at the larger sizes. In other words, and in concert with the allometric growth of the buccal cavity, gigantism would involve smaller fractions of muscle mass to more » engulf greater volumes of water and prey, thereby imparting a greater efficiency to this unique feeding strategy. « less
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Journal Name:
American journal of physics
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
851 - 863
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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