Image of the Day: Right Whale or Left Whale?

Scientists examine lateralized behaviors in blue whales.

The Scientist Staff and The Scientist Staff
Dec 11, 2017

Footage from a foraging blue whale near Monterey as shown through a forward facing camera (left) and a backward facing camera (right), depicting the activity of different orientation sensors attached to the animals (bottom panels) GOLDBOGEN LABORATORY, STANFORD UNIVERSITY; CASCADIA RESEARCH COLLECTIVE; UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA SANTA CRUZ Lateralized behaviors are common throughout nature, and are employed by many animals when avoiding predators or foraging. The conventional lateralization paradigm proposes that individuals are generally more inclined towards either the right or the left for specific behaviors. 

By fitting movement sensors to blue whales, researchers found that this does not appear to be the case for these cetaceans. They found that the strength and direction of the whales' lateralization was related to where and how individuals were feeding in the water column, rather than being individual-specific. 

A.S. Friedlaender et al., “Context-dependent lateralized feeding strategies in blue whales,” Current Biology, doi:10.1016/j.cub.2017.10.023, 2017.