Whales, Wildlife & Wilderness                                                                                                                                                 Pam & Wayne Osborn

Humpback Whales - Nature's Variations

 

A Whiter Shade of Tail

 

Humpback flukes exhibit such wide variation in shape and colour that they are a unique identifier for each whale. This humpback is lacking pigment on the top surface of its flukes - an unusual variation and the first we had seen. This whale was easy to track in Exmouth Gulf as the white surface showed as a light blue when underwater.  These four images show the flukes flexing as the whale prepares to dive.

 

 

Pigment Puzzles

 

These four images show a range of pigment variability.  The whale in the top image is quite unusual with the large expanse of white.  Unfortunately the whale never fluked in our presence so we couldn't see how far the white extended. The yellow-orange stains are diatoms (algae).

 

The second and third image are of the same whale with white on top and also white extending to the sides from the belly. This whale has a dorsal injury from a rope entanglement.  Craypot lines are a substantive hazard to whales as they navigate the Western Australian coastline.

 

The last image seems to owe more to impressionist or abstract art but may just be from old barnacles scars and scratches.

Playing for the All Blacks

 

These three images are a breach sequence in Exmouth Gulf, Western Australia. Southern hemisphere humpbacks typically have a white belly and underside of pectorals.  This 'all black' is more typical of a northern hemisphere humpback. Whilst whales generally stay with their migration group within each hemisphere, crossovers may occur.  A field that is ripe for more research.

Hook Dorsal

 

Dorsals come in all shapes and sizes and thus photographs like these are an invaluable aid to identifying individual whales. This is quite and extreme hook profile. We don't know why these is a metallic sheen line on top of the dorsal.