Category: whale

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AD34 Nanwalek had a new calf in 2018, and it is exceptionally cute. Definitely a highlight of year for me!

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AS41 and another member of AS30 pod goofing around.

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Killer cuddles.

Like many species of dolphin, killer whales are very tactile creatures. They often rub up against each other during periods of socialization. There are times when they are so physically close to one another it can be hard to tell where one whale ends and another begins!

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I love the feeling of excitement when you make important matches!

As many of you know, I have been trying for the last year to identify and study a mysterious pod of killer whales that has shown up in Kachemak Bay. While I’ve been able to consistently identify one large male across all encounters with these whales, I have not been able to cross match other members of the pod until now.

Because they have always been seen in the company of identified but poorly known pods, it has made identifying individual members of this mystery pod a nightmare. They associate with whales whose ID photos are often not updated, so it was hard to know if the unidentifiable whales I was seeing in my photos were truly members of this new pod or just poor quality photos of whales from other pods that have already been documented.

However, I recently made a successful match between encounters of one member of the mystery pod! This female was seen on two occasions with the large male from the mystery pod and does not match any other known Alaskan resident killer whale, so I can be confident that this female belongs to this mystery pod. It will take many more encounters with these whales to fully understand pod composition and structure.

[recorded by Jason Gedamke]

[recorded by Jason Gedamke]

[recorded by Passive Acoustics Group, NEFSC/NOAA]

It’s not Star Wars. It’s not dubstep. 

It’s a Minke Whale. Those are Minke Whale vocalizations. Relax. Drink some water and accept this.

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Bowhead Whale by Alex Mazurov

Conversation

me making small talk at social gatherings: I think we should talk about how cool bubble-net feeding is

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Humpback Whales, ph: Flavio Gasperini

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The large dorsal fin of AD27 Angiak. At 22 years old, he has reached physical and sexual maturity. Though he will not grow any larger, his dorsal fin may become more wavy and ruffled as he ages.

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Check out that difference in dorsal fin size—an adult male killer whale’s dorsal fin can be up to 6 feet in height, while a female’s dorsal fin be half as tall at around 3 feet.

Surprisingly, we still do not know why this difference in fin size exists. Sexual selection is probably involved—females prefer to mate with large males over smaller ones. But is the tall dorsal fin a byproduct of increasing selection for larger overall body size? Or are females specifically choosing taller dorsal fins? If so, are there beneficial genes associated with a larger dorsal fin that a female might want for her offspring?

On the other hand, perhaps sexual selection isn’t involved at all—sexual dimorphism can be caused by differences in behavior or ecology among the sexes in species. Dorsal fins are used for balance, and in marine mammals, they are also used for thermoregulation. Any differences in behaviors or ecology relating to these factors in males and females could potentially drive changes in fin morphology.

Even seemingly simple questions like “Why is a male killer whale’s dorsal fin larger than a female’s?” can be surprisingly challenging to answer!