Male humpback whales mate off Hawaii for the first time

For the first time, scientists have observed two male humpback whales mating off the coast of Hawaii. Despite decades of research on humpback whales, sightings of a male whale's penis have been rare.

Publication: 02.03.2024 - 14:49
Male humpback whales mate off Hawaii for the first time
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This groundbreaking observation marks the first documented instance of male humpback whales engaging in sexual activity. Confirmed by scientists, this event took place in January 2022 in the waters west of the island of Maui, where the two whales approached a boat, circled around it, and then engaged in sexual activity approximately three to five meters below the surface.

The fact that both whales were male, as verified by photographs taken by Lyle Krannichfeld and Brandi Romano, provides the first evidence of homosexual behavior in humpback whales and represents the species' first observed sexual encounter. Homosexual behavior is known to be common in the animal kingdom, with such mating observed among dolphins and orca whales, but never before among humpback whales.

Stephanie Stack, the lead author of the study, remarked, "The sexual behaviors of humpback whales have largely remained a mystery until now. This discovery challenges our preconceptions about humpback whale behavior. Even though we have long known about the complex social structures of these incredible beings, witnessing two male whales mating is a unique and noteworthy event."

Humpback whales, which can reach 16 meters in length and weigh 36 tons, typically spend the summer months feeding in polar waters before migrating to warmer, tropical climates during the autumn and winter months. Once threatened by commercial whaling, the population of humpback whales has seen a resurgence in recent years.

During the photographic session off Hawaii, one of the whales was seen entering the other while holding it with its pectoral fins. The whale being entered appeared ill, noticeably emaciated, and sometimes covered with whale lice, white-colored parasites found on marine mammals.

The penises of male humpback whales are usually hidden in a slit known as the "genital slit" to make them more aerodynamic while swimming. The penis of humpback whales has been seen only a few times in the past, typically during urination.

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