A Whale of a Tale: More Queer Sex Among the Animals | Opinion

Photo via Pexels.

Humpback whales are magnificent animals, though they seem to be a bit shy around humans.

It was only last year, for example, that footage was finally taken of a humpback cow giving birth to a calf. Shooting humpback whales having sex was even harder to achieve so, when it finally happened, it shook the scientific community. What made the event more sensational is that the whales involved were both male. The fortunate photographers, Lyle Krannichfeld and Brandi Romano, captured the bulls copulating from a boat off Maui in January 2022. Krannichfeld and Romano shared their findings with study leader Stephanie Stack of the Pacific Whale Foundation, who told the journal Marine Mammal Science that she was “stunned. Humpback whale copulation has never been seen or documented before anywhere in the world, so that’s a very special and amazing encounter.” Because humpbacks “live their lives underwater, a lot of what they do is still every mysterious to us.”

The two bulls caught in the act were no strangers to the Pacific Whale Foundation, which has studied the whales and registered them in their photo ID catalogs. This is why Foundation scientists knew that the whales (A and B) were both bulls. We are told that Whale B, the “top,” exposed his erect penis while Whale A, who seemed emaciated, kept his own concealed inside a genital slit. Whale B held A with his pectoral fins while penetrating him, each session lasting less than two quick minutes. Marine ecologist Robert Pittman suggested to Jason Bittel of the National Geographic that adult male humpbacks focusing on mating may try their luck with other males while the study’s researchers offered several “possible explanations” for their behavior: “that Whale B was mistakenly trying to mate with Whale A; that it was reinforcing a social relationship with an ailing conspecific; or that it was an expression of dominance over a weak and injured competitor.” We will need to conduct more research on humpback whale behavior before we can reach a conclusion. Stack was correct when she told The Guardian that “witnessing the copulation of two male whales for the first time is a unique and remarkable event.”

Readers of “Jesse’s Journal” know that this is not the first time I have written about homosexual behavior among animals. I have been interested in the topic since 1999, when I read “Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity” by Bruce Bagemihl. Since then, enough evidence has come forth to dispel all doubt, except on the part of closed-minded bigots. Bagemihl reported same-sex behavior in more than 450 animal species worldwide, in every major geographic region and every major animal group. More recently, a study in the journal Nature reported same-sex behavior in at least 261 mammalian species, including marine species like walruses, seals, dolphins, and orcas as well as whales. Though still startling to some, “this figure is probably underestimated,” according to evolutional ecologist José María Gómez. “For this reason, studies such as the present one are very welcome.”


Two Male Humpback Whales Photographed Having Sex


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