Humpback whales recreate the Fibonacci spiral in polar waters

Famous professional photographer and polar explorer, Piet van den Bemd, a few days ago he uploaded a spectacular video on his social media. Filming the emergence of some humpback whales using a drone (Megaptera novaeangliae), focused on hunting, van den Bemd spotted an impressive detail that is particularly provoking discussion among scientists and web users themselves. As the humpback whales circled in the water trying to catch as many fish as possible, they formed themselves using bubbles a specific geometric figure very important for mathematics and biology.

With careful observation, you will realize that the waves begin to draw the shape of the sea on the surface of the water Fibonacci spiral, a mathematical pattern that occurs all the time in the natural world. For example, it is found in our body, at the height of the cochlea in the ear, as on the surface of some vegetables (especially broccoli) and in the animal world. The Fibonacci spiral is also present in hurricanes or in Jupiter’s Great Red Spot.

In geometry and architectural history it is also known as golden spiral and it is a special type of logarithmic spiral. It is essential to achieve the so-called golden rectangle, for millennia the expression of divine perfection in creation and has enabled several scientists to understand some complex biological and ecological processes.

Van den Bemd told reporters that he was not prepared for such a spectacle and that the moment he realized that he was watching an unforgettable spectacle, he was struck with strong emotions, as if the entire universe was communicating with him through two humpback whales. . “The way these whales reproduced faithfully and unknowingly The Fibonacci spiral makes the whole event incredible,” he commented.

But why did humpback whales release these particular bubbles? «The explanation is simple», commented the photographer, who has some knowledge of polar fauna. This type of whale uses bubbles to stun its prey, small fish, krill, and squid that are too elusive for the giant cetaceans. To slow them down and ensure they end up in their mouths, humpback whales usually hunt in groups and choose a “dance” partner. Floating under a school of fish, they emit bubbles from their mouths and blowholes, which, like in a huge pool with hydromassage, they make the ocean foam.

Schools of fish hit by the bubbles and disoriented by the confusion thus lose their cohesion, and humpback whales use this to quickly swallow animals too disoriented or stunned to escape. Subsequently, they spit out excess water with their tongue and hold the prey with their baleen.

On his Instagram profile, Van den Bemd described this method of hunting, filmed near Antarctica, as “the perfect cooperation of nature that manifests itself under the waves”.

A spiral is also known in mathematics for its sequence: a sequence of integers in which each number is the sum of the two previous ones. It was first published in 1202 by a Pisan mathematician Leonardo Fibonacci in the contract Free abaci. This arithmetic and algebraic text introduced the Indo-Arabic decimal number system and the main calculation methods to Europe. Inside, Fibonacci also described an example quite familiar to mathematicians, concerning the constant growth of the rabbit population.

According to historians of science The Fibonacci spiral is one of the symbolic images of nature, also present within the laws governing the composition of matter.

A leaf of the parchment manuscript Liber abbaci preserved in the National Central Library in Florence. It is a famous text about the fertility of a pair of rabbits, which introduces the sequence of numbers known today as the Fibonacci sequence. Wikimedia Commons

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