Humpback whales have a fascinating feeding strategy, one that is sometimes witnessed by those watching from above the water. It's called bubble-net feeding. It's a complex strategy, and one that isn't witnessed as often as other feeding behaviors. But this group of bystanders on a dock got an up-close look at the strategy, and managed to capture it on video.

So what exactly is bubble net feeding? It wasn't completely known until 2011, when Marine biologist David Wiley of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) took a closer look. Science Daily writes of their findings, "These whales create bubble nets to corral and contain planktonic prey into a small area so that they can more efficiently scoop them up in their large filter-feeding mouths. Based on surface observations, these bubble-feeding behaviors appear to vary in nature among both individuals and regions."

In this video, you'll see the ring of bubbles rising in an arch around the fish, and the fish coming up to the surface just before the whale takes a gulp.

Motherboard writes that a 2013 study, "found evidence to support the notion that various bubble-net fishing techniques are passed down from generation to generation among regional humpback whale groups. By analyzing a database of 27 years of humpback foraging behavior, biologists were able to model the likelihood that techniques were learned through peer-to-peer socialization, rather than genetically preprogrammed. The models provided quantitative proof that humpbacks socially learn new behaviors, and actually share traditions or quirks with one another."

If you're lucky enough to witness bubble net feeding behaviors in humpbacks, what you're seeing is not just a smart feeding strategy, but also a complex and intelligent social behavior, and a tradition that has possibly been passed down through generations of that pod's family members.

The video below explains a bit more about what happens in bubble net feeding behavior:


Jaymi Heimbuch ( @jaymiheimbuch ) focuses on wildlife conservation and animal news from her home base in San Francisco.