It is probably not easy being a sea lion. One day, you’re swimming around hunting some tasty anchovies and suddenly, BAM! You’re a few meters out of the water in the mouth of a humpback whale, not knowing what’s about to happen. This curious event was caught on camera by wildlife photographer and biologist Chase Dekker just outside Monterey Bay in California.
Recounting the tale on Instagram, he said he was watching humpback whales lunge feeding – where they swim with their mouth open to catch fish – when a sea lion ended up being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Despite the seal appearing shocked, he says both animals seemed fine.
Dekker wrote on Instagram: "At some point the sea lion escaped and the whale seemed fine too as it continued to feed, but it must have been a strange experience for both parties! That sea lion had the true "Jonah Experience!"
However, the sea lion was never going to end up like either the Biblical Jonah or Pinocchio in the belly of the whale. Although the mouth of a humpback whale has a volume of 19,000 liters (5,000 gallons), its throat is not much bigger than a grapefruit, according to NOAA's Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.
Sea lions and humpback whales usually have a much more calm interaction. The main predator of sea lions is orcas, a species with extremely successful hunting skills that have been seen throwing prey out of the water with enough strength that their internal organs pop out. This means sea lions have to be faster than orcas to not end up with such a fate.
On good days, seals may have some guardian angels: humpback whales. Published observations suggest humpback whales may pick a fight with orcas in an apparent attempt to disrupt their hunting activities. And they properly go at it, slapping them with their flippers and chasing them away. In many cases, it seems, sea lions prefer the company of humpback whales, just perhaps not too close during feeding times.
[H/T: Sky News]