Guest Post from Dave Hansford, National Geographic
Carrying the remains of a roughly 30-foot (9-meter) giant squid in her jaws, a female sperm whale, with a calf at her side, swims near the surface off Japan's Bonin Islands (map)in the northwestern Pacific. Taken on October 15, this and other "absolutely sensational" new pictures offer rare proof of the sperm whale's taste for giant squid, said giant squid expert Steve O'Shea of the Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand.
The pictures may also reveal that adult sperm whales, which grow up to 59 feet (18 meters) long, use pieces of their prizes to teach youngsters how to catch their own, O'Shea told National Geographic News.
The group of five adults and one calf kept diving deep in unison, photographer Tony Wu told the Daily Mail. "It seemed as if the adult whales were trying to teach the baby to dive and also to eat squid," he said.
Eating on the run, a female sperm whale carries the remains of a giant squid off the Bonin Islands, about 621 miles (1,000 kilometers) south of Tokyo.
The whale at right was also photographed carrying the giant morsel in her mouth--rare evidence of the whales' taste for giant squid, which some researchers say can grow to 43 feet (13 meters) long and weigh more than 600 pounds (272 kilograms). The whales use sophisticated echolocation--similar to sonar--to find their quarry in the pitch blackness of the deep.
Sperm whales are voracious hunters of squid—the species as a whole consumes an estimated 110 million tons a year.
An 11.5-foot-long (3.5-meter-long) leftover, this giant squid arm was recovered at the surface from another sperm whale hunt on October 14, 2009, in the same place as feeding frenzy photographed underwater the next day.
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