Antarctic minke whales feed mainly on krill (Euphausia superba). Euphausia superba comprises 100% of stomach contents of minke whales caught at the ice edge and 94% (by weight) of the stomach contents of minke whales in the offshore zone. Euphausia crystarollophias was also found in smaller quantities in the stomachs of Antarctic minke whales caught in coastal areas. Other prey include Euphasi frigida and Thysanoessa macrura. This is in contrast to common minke whales, which feed on a more diverse array of fish and invertebrates. Antarctic minke whales feed primarily in the early morning and late evening and most feeding activity is observed at the edge of pack ice. Daily food consumption in the summer was estimated at 3.6 to 5.3% of body weight, representing an important proportion of krill biomass in the study area. It is likely that Antarctic minke whales eat much smaller quantities of food during the austral winter or perhaps forage very little at all on wintering grounds (Best 1982 as cited in Reilly et al., 2008). The blubber layer thickens as the feeding season progresses but mean blubber thickness in individuals has decreased over the 18 year period between 1987 and 2005. This might suggest a decrease in food availability in Antarctic waters.
Animal Foods: aquatic crustaceans; zooplankton
Foraging Behavior: filter-feeding
Primary Diet: carnivore (Eats non-insect arthropods); planktivore
- Ichii, T., H. Kato. 1991. Food and daily food consumption of southern minke whales in the Antarctic. Polar Biology, 11: 479-487.
- Reilly, S., J. Bannister, P. Best, M. Brown, R. Brownell Jr, D. Butterworth, P. Clapham, J. Cook, G. Donovan, J. Urbán, A. Zerbini. 2008. "Balaenoptera bonaerensis" (On-line). 2008 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Accessed February 05, 2009 at http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/2480.
- Tamura, T., K. Konishi. 2006. Feeding habits and prey consumption of Antarctic minke whales, Balaenoptera bonaerensis in JARPA research area.