Science & Tech

Two male humpback whales pictured having sex for the first time

Two male humpback whales pictured having sex for the first time
Curious humpback whale circles boat of researchers: "It's looking right at us"
Wildlife Conservation Society

The first-ever photo of two male humpback whales engaging in sex has been shared, confirming what experts have long believed about the animal world.

With the ocean as vast as it is, capturing some of its animals on camera can be tricky. Only last year, experts believe they captured rare footage of a great white shark baby in the wild for the very first time.

Now, experts believe they have captured another world-first as they pictured two male humpback whales copulating.

The images were captured by Lyle Krannichfeld and Brandi Romano – both photographers, who were on holiday in Maui, Hawaii. They contacted PhD student Stephanie Stack, who works at the Pacific Whale Foundation, explaining that they believe they may have captured something unusual.

What they had captured was the rarely seen event of sexual behaviour of humpback whales and a same-sex pairing at that.

Speaking to IFLScience, Stack explained: “Despite being well studied for decades, the sexual behavior of humpback whales has remained mostly a mystery until now.”

She continued: “This discovery challenges our preconceived notions about humpback whale behavior. While we have long recognized the complex social structures of these incredible creatures, witnessing the copulation of two male whales for the first time is a unique and remarkable event.”

Lyle Krannichfeld and Brandi Romano

While the event was noteworthy, the report on the incident, shared in the Marine Mammal Science journal, suggests that the copulation may not have been consensual. The experts noted that one of the whales was underweight and was infected with parasites.

Biologists remain in the dark from an evolutionary standpoint as to why the whales engaged in such behaviour.

The authors noted: “The purpose for nonreproductive behavior is varied; proposed functions include learning or practicing reproductive behaviors, establishing or reinforcing dominance relationships, forming social alliances, and/or reduction in social tension.”

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