A newly identified humpback whale feeding technique was probably described 1,800 years ago and later inspired Norse mythology. This is the conclusion reached by John McCarthy, Irene Sibo and Matthew Firth of Australia’s Flinders University in Adelaide. Whales have been recorded using their lower jaws as fish traps for a number of years. This is similar to the descriptions of the Scandinavian sea monster «Hafjofa». As they write in the journal Marine Mammal ScienceThis has been possible in humpback whales since 2014 (Megaptera novaeangliae) Pride whales (Balaenoptera brydei) They noticed very unusual behavior dating back to an ancient manuscript. Experts are now asking why technology has so far escaped modern whale research.
Usually, these whales swim towards their prey, open their mouths wide, catch the prey and filter the prey out of the water using their baleen. On the other hand, new technology works very differently. Whales stand vertically in the water and open their mouths at right angles so that their lower jaw forms a huge bowl just below the surface of the water, into which water and fish flow. Professionals who described the behavior of 2017 in detailalso suspects that the fish can become disoriented and mistake the whale’s open mouth for a safety blanket.
While reading about Norse sea monsters, marine archaeologist John McCarthy noticed that the mythical creature “havgofa” described in the 13th century resembled whales with a newly discovered feeding technique. Until the 18th century, this creature appeared as a sea monster in Icelandic legends. As experts discovered upon closer analysis, the description likely dates back to medieval bestiaries, a popular literary genre about animals and mythical creatures. And they found the oldest description in the manuscript «Physiologus» that originated in Alexandria in Egypt in the second century. McCarthy points out that the earliest versions of the descriptions do not refer to mythical sea monsters, but to real whales.
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