October 23, 2009 at 2:48 pm #32419
note: some people believe whales are spiritual guardians of the planet, and that’s why they’ve developed the largest brains in the mammal kingdom – to hold all the subtle body information of Mother Earth. That may be true…but I feel really sorry for the male Humpbacks, who literally kill each other to live up to their name.
Do we have any volunteers to train them in Taoist sexology, and relieve some of this sexual stress? Or maybe its just “Big boys will beat even Bigger boys”? 🙂 – Michael
EPIC HUMPBACK WHALE BATTLE FILMED
By Matt Walker
October 23, 2009
The greatest battle of all…
It is the greatest animal battle on the planet, and it has finally been
caught on camera.
A BBC natural history crew has filmed the “humpback whale heat run”, where
15m long, 40 tonne male whales fight it out to mate with even larger
During the first complete sequence of this behaviour ever captured, the male
humpbacks swim at high speed behind the female, violently jostling for
The collisions between the males can be violent enough to kill.
The footage was recorded for the BBC natural history series Life.
“Even though this is one of the most common of the large whales, very little
is known about its actual sexual behaviour,” says Life producer Dr Ted
“One of the most interesting things is that humpbacks have never been seen
But what has been filmed is the epic battle between males to get mating
access to the female whales.
Up to 40 males swim behind a single female at speeds of up to ten knots,
each jostling to obtain a dominant position.
“It’s the closest we’re ever going to get to dinosaurs fighting. It’s the
largest battle in the animal kingdom and it feels like something out of
Jurassic Park,” says Dr Oakes.
Migrate to mate
Most humpback whales spend their summers feeding in polar regions.
During the winter, they migrate thousands of miles to warmer tropical
While there is little food in the tropics, females move there to give birth,
as the warmer water helps smaller baby whales better regulate their body
Males follow the females to the tropics, hoping to find mates.
To film the whales’ heat run, the Life team travelled to the southern
Pacific waters around the archipelago of the Kingdom of Tonga.
“In order to capture the sequence we had to film from a helicopter, a boat
and from underwater,” says Dr Oakes.
“Each of those was really difficult, and we had to get them all together. It
was a big challenge.”
Running the gauntlet
When a female humpback comes into heat, she alerts males by making sounds,
such as slapping the water surface. She may also release scent into the
water to signal her status.
“The males all gather around the female, she hangs there, and then swims
away. That’s when it kicks off,” says Dr Oakes.
“It is kind of like a gauntlet. She swims away at speed and the males then
fight for pole position directly behind her tail.”
As they chase the female, the males escalate their conflict.
First they lift their bodies out of the water, slapping the bottom of their
huge feeding pouches onto the surface. They also slap their long pectoral
fins onto the water.
The males then vocalise loudly and blow bubbles underwater, a threat display
among many marine mammals.
“When they blow these huge streams of bubbles, in this context it means
there’s going to be an almighty fight’,” says Dr Oakes.
The males then start colliding, hitting one another and even jumping out of
the water and onto rivals.
Considering that each male humpback can weigh 40 tonnes, such collisions
must hurt, says Dr Oakes.
“It’s a violent behaviour. So violent that there are records of males
killing one another.”
Cameraman Mr Roger Munns filmed most of the underwater footage of the heat
run for the BBC.
Mr Munns had to freedive whilst holding his breath to get shots of the
whales swimming past him at speed, as the use of scuba tanks would disturb
“We had to find the whales when they are on the heat run, which is hard,”
says Dr Oakes.
“Then we had to position the diving team in front of the charging pack of
whales for them to have any chance.”
“At one point I think Roger had the female and seven or eight males go past
him. He said it was the most incredible experience of his life. Like
standing in the middle of a motorway.”October 23, 2009 at 4:38 pm #32420
Where are all the females?
Why the huge male:female ratio?
Are females scarce?
Are females relatively disinterested in sex
except for being in heat vs. males always being
horned up?October 24, 2009 at 8:35 pm #32422
I suggest you hump up next to one of the big guys and ask them yourself. I don’t know.
🙂 mOctober 24, 2009 at 10:23 pm #32424
I don’t speak whale, but found someone who can help 😉November 19, 2009 at 4:38 am #32426
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