Photo: Cornelia Oedekoven / Courtesy NOAA
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A California sea lion was minding its own business munching on anchovies in Monterey Bay earlier this month when it accidentally became part of the food chain.
The marine mammal’s harrowing encounter with a humpback whale was captured in a one-of-a-kind image by a photographer filming the whales in the bay.
Anchovies also happen to be a favorite food of humpbacks. The whales eat the tiny fish en masse by opening their mouths to about 90 degrees and accelerating at their prey, swallowing as many as possible in a single gulp. It’s called lunge feeding.
But sometimes lunge feeders swallow something that they weren’t intending to. Like a sea lion, for instance.
“While the humpbacks were lunge feeding on a school of anchovies, a sea lion apparently didn’t jump out of the way fast enough and got trapped inside the whale’s mouth!” photographer-biologist Chase Dekker wrote on his Instagram page.
Dekker snapped the photo just as the whale’s jaws engulfed the pinniped.
It had to be a confusing moment for both sea lion and humpback.
Dekker said the sea lion eventually squirmed out of the cetacean’s mouth apparently unharmed, and the whale went back to feeding on more digestible prey.
“That sea lion had the true ‘Jonah Experience’!” he noted.
You can see Dekker’s other work at @chasedekkerphotography on Instagram.
Mike Moffitt is an SFGATE Digital Reporter. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @Mike_at_SFGate.
This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Incredible-photo-whale-sea-lion-swallowed-Monterey-14261368.php.