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New research reveals harbour porpoise hunting skills

The harbour porpoise might be one of the smallest cetaceans (the collective name for whales, dolphins and porpoises) but findings in a new report from Danish scientists reveal that it when it comes to success in hunting its prey, it has few rivals.

Being small (less than two metres long) with a high metabolic rate and living in cool or cold waters means that the porpoise must feed continuously both day and night to provide the energy needed to survive, eating enough fish to replenish as much as 10% of its own body weight each day.

Like other toothed whales and dolphins, porpoises use echolocation to find their prey but the research reveals that porpoises have around a 90% success rate, consuming over 500 fish every hour. With the need to be continuously hunting, the findings also raise concerns about how even a small impact from human activities could have a potentially devastating impact on these creatures, making them vulnerable to threats such disturbance from noise or habitat loss.

For the full report:
Ultra-High Foraging Rates of Harbor Porpoises Make Them Vulnerable to Anthropogenic Disturbance
Wisniewska, Danuta Maria et al. Current Biology

About George Berry

George is a member of WDC's Communications team and website coordinator.