Marine mammal function and behaviour

Te Papa researcher: Felix Marx

Together with my collaborators from Australia, Europe and Japan, I study the diversity, function and evolution of marine mammal behaviour, from feeding to swimming and communication. I am particularly interested in the origin of filter feeding in baleen whales, suction feeding in whales and seals, tooth sharpness and function, and the shape and use of the forelimb flipper.

Investigating these topics often requires an interdisciplinary approach and the use of a broad range of techniques like 3D scanning, computational fluid dynamics, and even behavioural observations of live animals.

Four images - two computer-drawn images and two seals in the water


Top left: fur seal flipper model by Shibo Wang (Monash University, Australia); top right: whale tooth models by David Hocking (Monash University, Australia). Seal photographs by Ben Burville (Newcastle University, UK; left) and Renae Sattler (Alaska Sealife Center, USA; right).

Main collaborators: Monash University (Melbourne, Australia), Natural History Museum (London, UK), National Museum of Nature and Science (Tokyo, Japan).

Funding: Australian Research Council, European Commission.

Representative publications:

Hocking DP, Burville B, Parker WMG, Evans AR, Park T, Marx FG. 2020. Percussive underwater signaling in wild gray seals. Marine Mammal Science 36: 728-732.

Hocking DP, Marx FG, Park T, Fitzgerald EMG, Evans AR. 2017. A behavioural framework for the evolution of feeding in predatory aquatic mammals. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 284: 20162750.

Marx FG, Hocking DP, Park T, Ziegler T, Evans AR, Fitzgerald EMG. 2016. Suction feeding preceded filtering in baleen whale evolution. Memoirs of Museum Victoria 75: 71-82.