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Originally published Monday, February 22, 2010 at 11:28 PM

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Scientists: sperm whales rotate hunting tasks

Scientists from Oregon and Mexico say they've found evidence that sperm whales work in teams to hunt squid - and rotate the toughest job.

The Associated Press

PORTLAND, Ore. —

Scientists from Oregon and Mexico say they've found evidence that sperm whales work in teams to hunt squid - and rotate the toughest job.

The director of Oregon State University's Marine Mammal Institute presented the information Monday in Portland at the American Geophysical Union's annual ocean sciences meeting.

Oregon's Bruce Mate and Jorge Urban of the Autonomous University of Baja California Sur placed data-recording tags on sperm whales feeding on squid in the Gulf of California. The tags track the whales' movements for as long as 28 days, then they detach and float to the surface.

Mate says the data show that three whales they tracked seemed to move together and dive together. But one of the three almost always dove deeper. On successive dives, a different whale assumed the deep-diving role.

The researchers think the whales may be rounding up squid to be more easily picked off by the hunting party - with the deep diver cutting off any escape route. Deep diving is hard so Mate says it makes sense to rotate that chore.

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Information from: The Oregonian, http://www.oregonlive.com

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