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More Success! WDC’s negotiations with travel giant TripAdvisor pay off

More Success! WDC’s negotiations with travel giant TripAdvisor pay off

Online travel giant, TripAdvisor is to stop the promotion of whale and dolphin captivity shows,...
Financial worth of whales revealed

Financial worth of whales revealed

http://us.whales.org/2019/09/27/financial-worth-of-whales-revealed/
5 Year Fight for Critical Habitat for Southern Resident orcas

5 Year Fight for Critical Habitat for Southern Resident orcas

Orcas off the Olympic Coast of Washington (National Marine Sanctuaries) Expanding critical habitat for Southern...
SeaWorld parts company with another CEO

SeaWorld parts company with another CEO

Troubled marine park operator, SeaWorld has parted company with yet another CEO. Gus Antorcha, who...
Antibiotic resistance in dolphins mirrors trend seen in humans

Antibiotic resistance in dolphins mirrors trend seen in humans

Samples collected from dolphins by scientists over a 12 year period indicate that dolphins may...
Senate Leaders Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Save the North Atlantic Right Whale

Senate Leaders Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Save the North Atlantic Right Whale

After a deadly summer for North Atlantic right whales, Senators Booker (D-NJ), Isakson (R-GA) and...
Canada to move two captive belugas to theme park in Spain

Canada to move two captive belugas to theme park in Spain

Two captive beluga whales are to be moved from the Marineland theme park in Canada...
The Summer of Scylla

The Summer of Scylla

You know how every once in awhile, you meet someone and you just click? You...

Can kick-feeding techniques in Gulf of Maine humpback whales determine personalities?

My name is Laine McCall and I’m a research intern for WDC. I began as a field research intern in the summer of 2015 and returned this summer to help WDC pilot a new behavior study.


This summer, WDC started data collection for a new study asking the question as to whether humpback whales have personalities.   Looking at personalities from a scientific point of view means looking at how individuals consistently behave differently over their lifetimes.  Trying to figure personality types of whales is a big challenge. We are starting by looking at how they eat, and specifically, a technique called kick-feeding.  When a humpback whale “kick-feeds”, they kick, or slap the water surface to disturb fish before they create bubble clouds or nets to entrap the fish in a tighter circle, allowing them a larger mouthful.  This behavior appears to be unique to humpback whales feeding in the Gulf of Maine and was first seen in the early 1980s.  This feeding method is also an example of how social learning can spread through the population of whales. These whales learned this feeding strategy from their peers, not from their mother when they were a calf, the same way you may have learned about a new band or television show.  Not all Gulf of Maine humpback whales kick-feed, however, some strictly create the bubble clouds or bubble nets without the initial kick.


 For this study, we are recording video footage to see if Gulf of Maine humpback whales, including many of the whales in our whale adoption family, display unique characteristics when they kick-feed. From what we’ve seen so far, there are some distinct differences between the kick-feeding styles of individuals with some whales kicking just once, while others “kick” several times before beginning the bubble net. Most of the whales have fast, forceful kicks while others are slower and more dramatic.   We don’t yet know if some of these differences are a factor of how deep the fish are, or the types of fish they are eating, or indeed if the whales are at different stages of learning how to kick-feed with the most efficiency. But so far, it does appear that individuals are consistent with their style.  We even suspect that some whale rarely (or never) kick, but reap the rewards of the kicking efforts of others and we need to investigate this further.

In the video below, can you pick up on any differences between Abrasion’s and Tornado’s kick-feeding styles?

Not that we here at WDC need to be convinced to appreciate whales, but learning about the social complexities of these fascinating whales can provide further evidence that these intelligent creatures deserve to be saved. I hope you’ll follow our updates on this project as it progresses, and consider supporting our work.