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First-ever photos taken of humpback whales having sex involves two males
Featured Image Credit: Lyle Krannichfeld and Brandi Romano

First-ever photos taken of humpback whales having sex involves two males

The images are the first ones which show two humpback whales copulating, and it features two males

A photographer has captured the first image of two humpback whales copulating.

The image captured is actually of two males, adding Humpback Whales to the growing list of species observed to have had same-sex couplings.

The extraordinary image taken off Maui shows the two whales close together with the penis of one the whales clearly extending out.

The penises of cetaceans, that's whales and dolphins, are usually secreted away inside the whale's body to maintain a streamlined shape, and males extrude their penis when ready to mate.

Cetacean penises are also extremely dextrous, as they would presumably need to be to get where they need to go while floating underwater without any arms.

The image is a first for humpback whales. Whilst humpbacks are one of the most studied species of whale, they like their privacy when it comes to their, erm, 'netflix and krill'.

PhD student Stephanie Stack, who works at the Pacific Whale Foundation, got the photos when she was contacted by two photographers who had captured the moment.

The two whales were caught in the act.
Lyle Krannichfeld and Brandi Romano

Speaking to IFLScience, Stack said: "Despite being well studied for decades, the sexual behavior of humpback whales has remained mostly a mystery until now.

“This discovery challenges our preconceived notions about humpback whale behavior. While we have long recognized the complex social structures of these incredible creatures, witnessing the copulation of two male whales for the first time is a unique and remarkable event.”

Now Stack and other researchers are keen to find out more about the sexual behaviour of humpback whales.

For example, was this homosexual encounter an example of a common occurrence or just a (whale) fluke?

Unfortunately, one of the whales also appeared to have been injured by a ship strike. Not only that, but its body language indicated that it may not have been a willing participant.

The two whales were photographed in the act.
Lyle Krannichfeld and Brandi Romano

Photographing whales underwater is actually far more recent than you might think, with the first commercial underwater camera only becoming available in the 1960s.

Before the first underwater photos of whales, our understanding of what they actually look like in their natural habitat was based off beached specimens. This changes the shape of the whale's body substantially, as well as the carcass bloating with gas after the whale dies.

The blue whale models in both the American Museum of Natural History in New York and the Natural History Museum in London were actually anatomically inaccurate when they were first constructed.

For example the London model is too broad, and underwater photographs show Blue Whales to be much more slender.

As for the New York model, this has had several updates over the years to make it as accurate as possible, such as changing the eyes, adding a belly button, and even putting in some hairs on the whale's chin.

Topics: News, World News, Animals