Monday, December 20, 2010

The Sardine Run: A Yearly Feeding Frenzy Off South Africa's Coast

One of the most magnificent sights on the planet.  Every year  millions of sardines migrate northward past the south coast of Africa.  This migration has often been referred to as one of the most magnificent wonders of the natural world.

There is no specific numbers on how many sardines there are.  The migrating shoal of fish can stretch multiple miles in length, a mile in width, and forty meters deep.  This mass of fish is easily visible from low flying planes above the ocean.

Predators of all types take advantage of the massive amounts of sardines. Dolphins,  many species of sharks, sailfish, gannets, seals, orcas, whales and even penguins take part in one of the largest predatory event on this planet.

Gannets Dive Bombing Sardines

The dolphins will herd the sardines into a "bait ball", and then force this ball to the surface, in range of diving gannets.  The bait ball makes the sardines easy for the dolphins to pick off, and the other predators on the scene take advantage of the dolphins work as well.

Here is an amazing video.  It shows diving gannets, feeding dolphins and sharks, and even many passes by a few Bryde's Whales.  Near the end of the video, the photographer gets a little to close to a whale, and you can see in the video that the current from the whale passing threw the diver off.  Also, a whale almost eats a shark near the very end of the video as well! As always, maximize the video to see it at its best.

In recent years, changed in the ocean temperature and currents has made the sardine run unpredictable, some years not even happening at all.  This is because the sardines rely on a seasonal cold current to carve a path in the ocean between their spawning grounds in the south, to their more northern feeding grounds.  The reason they need this colder current to make the journey is that sardines cannot tolerate temperatures over 20 degrees Celsius.

Dolphins Herding Bait Ball
Other Articles you might be interested in:

Unique Dolphin Hunting Style - Driving Fish onto Land

Blue Whales Feeding Style

1 comment:

  1. I've seen this video before but didn't really read about that. That was interesting.