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Optimal foraging theory predicts diving and feeding strategies of the largest marine predator


  • Thomas Doniol-Valcroze
  • Véronique Lesage
  • Janie Giard
  • Robert Michaud


Accurate predictions of predator behavior remain elusive in natural settings. Optimal foraging theory predicts that breath-hold divers should adjust time allocation within their dives to the distance separating prey from the surface. Quantitative tests of these models have been hampered by the difficulty of documenting underwater feeding behavior and the lack of systems, experimental or natural, in which prey depth varies over a large range. We tested these predictions on blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus), which track the diel vertical migration of their prey. A model using simple allometric arguments successfully predicted diving behavior measured with data loggers. Foraging times within each dive increased to compensate longer transit times and optimize resource acquisition. Shallow dives were short and yielded the highest feeding rates, explaining why feeding activity was more intense at night. An optimal framework thus provides powerful tools to predict the behavior of free-ranging marine predators and inform conservation studies. Copyright 2011, Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Thomas Doniol-Valcroze & Véronique Lesage & Janie Giard & Robert Michaud, 2011. "Optimal foraging theory predicts diving and feeding strategies of the largest marine predator," Behavioral Ecology, International Society for Behavioral Ecology, vol. 22(4), pages 880-888.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:beheco:v:22:y:2011:i:4:p:880-888

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