A humpback whale (Megaptera novaeanglia) ‘pec-slapping”, Icy Strait, Southeast Alaska, USA.
Humpback whales have the longest flipper of any cetacean: 5 metres long or up to a third of the body length. They vary in colouration and can be almost completely white like this individual. Humpback whales in the Southern Hemisphere are more likely to have white flippers than in the Northern Hemisphere. I observed how they appeared to use their big flippers to help to herd their prey towards their gaping jaws during lunge feeding. I also observed how they use them for splashing the water to assist in panicking and herding their prey, and they probably also use them for audible communication. But they also appear to use them recreationally like this one laying on its side waving its flippers aloft and then bringing it crashing down onto the surface. This whale rolled over and over towards me with its flippers going around like a windmill or a gigantic propellor.
I once felt the power and weight of a flipper when I was accidentally caught directly above an ascending bubblenet feeding pod. Before I had the chance to get out of the way one of them rolled over and its flipper landed on top of the bow of my kayak, which became partially submerged by the weight: it then rolled back the other way and released me.
- Duncan Murrell
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- Contained in galleries
- Humpback Whales - Other Behaviour