Humpback whales on Australia’s east coast have changed their mating habits as competition for females has increased, moving from ‘lovers’ to fighters.
A long-term monitoring project conducted by researchers at the University of Queensland has found that male humpback whales used to sing to locate females, but are increasingly turning to fighting each other for the right to reproduce.
UQ Associate Professor Rebecca Dunlop, who has been working on the project for years, said the change in behavior over time was due to the increase in the humpback whale population.
“Humpback whales have been hunted almost to extinction. It’s estimated they’ve come down to only about 300 people,” she said.
“And then the population has increased drastically over the years, and that’s going to drastically change the population dynamics.”
Over the study period used for the paper – between 1997 and 2015 – the population of humpback whales on the East Coast grew from 3,700 to 27,000 whales.
The researchers said when whales were few in number it made sense that they had to “sing” to find mates, but now there were so many, there was more competition for the females, and so the males were giving in battle for the right to mate.
Dunlop said it’s not clear if this is a return to “normal” humpback whale mating behavior or if it’s a new adaptation.
“The problem is that we don’t know what’s ‘normal’ for humpback whales because this work wasn’t done before whaling became widespread,” she said.
https://www.smh.com.au/national/queensland/humpback-whales-looking-for-love-turn-from-wailing-to-whaling-20230216-p5cl07.html?ref=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_source=rss_national Humpback whales looking for love go from whining to ‘whaling’