The parachute physics of hungry whales

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 27, 2009

How did whales get so big eating such tiny creatures? And why aren't they bigger? Carl Zimmer explains.

According to the scientists, this pattern occurs when the whales lunge into a cloud of krill and drop open their jaws. Pleats under the lower jaw open up, engulfing huge amounts of water. The whale slows down because of the drag. It behaves, in other words, a lot like a parachute. [...] It's a lot of water, the scientists have found: in one lunge, a fin whale can momentarily double its weight.

The scaling stuff later on in the article is especially interesting. See also The Biology of B-Movie Monsters.