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Why whales are big but not bigger: Physiological drivers and ecological limits in the age of ocean giants

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review

DOI

  • J. A. Goldbogen, Stanford University
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  • D. E. Cade, Stanford University
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  • D. M. Wisniewska, Hopkins Marine Station, Stanford University
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  • J. Potvin, Saint Louis University
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  • P. S. Segre, Stanford University
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  • M. S. Savoca, Stanford University
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  • E. L. Hazen, Stanford University, NOAA/Earth System Research Laboratory, University of California, Santa Cruz
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  • M. F. Czapanskiy, Stanford University
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  • S. R. Kahane-Rapport, Stanford University
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  • S. L. DeRuiter, Calvin University
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  • S. Gero
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  • P. Tønnesen
  • W. T. Gough, Stanford University
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  • M. B. Hanson, NOAA
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  • M. M. Holt, NOAA
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  • F. H. Jensen, Department of Biology, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
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  • M. Simon, Greenland Climate Research Centre, Greenland Institute of Natural Resources
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  • A. K. Stimpert, The California State University
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  • P. Arranz, La Laguna University
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  • D. W. Johnston, Duke University
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  • D. P. Nowacek, Duke University
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  • S. E. Parks, Syracuse University
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  • F. Visser, University of Amsterdam, Utrecht University, Utrecht, Kelp Marine Research
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  • A. S. Friedlaender, University of California, Santa Cruz
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  • P. L. Tyack, University of St Andrews
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  • P. T. Madsen
  • N. D. Pyenson, National Museum of Natural History, Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture

The largest animals are marine filter feeders, but the underlying mechanism of their large size remains unexplained. We measured feeding performance and prey quality to demonstrate how whale gigantism is driven by the interplay of prey abundance and harvesting mechanisms that increase prey capture rates and energy intake. The foraging efficiency of toothed whales that feed on single prey is constrained by the abundance of large prey, whereas filter-feeding baleen whales seasonally exploit vast swarms of small prey at high efficiencies. Given temporally and spatially aggregated prey, filter feeding provides an evolutionary pathway to extremes in body size that are not available to lineages that must feed on one prey at a time. Maximum size in filter feeders is likely constrained by prey availability across space and time.

Original languageEnglish
JournalScience (New York, N.Y.)
Volume366
Issue6471
Pages (from-to)1367-1372
Number of pages6
ISSN0036-8075
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2019

    Research areas

  • BAIRDS BEAKED-WHALE, BERARDIUS-BAIRDII, BODY-SIZE, EUPHAUSIA-SUPERBA, FEEDING PERFORMANCE, FINNED PILOT WHALES, FORAGING BEHAVIOR, GLOBICEPHALA-MELAS, HARBOR PORPOISES, WESTERN NORTH PACIFIC

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