Knowledge of female humpback behavior in a mating context may be the least-known aspect of this species’ behavior today.
Humpback whales have never been observed mating – either in Hawaii or anywhere else in the world. But by traveling to Hawaii, female humpback whales make themselves accessible to sexually active whales – a lot of them! If mating is not an objective, then they have definitely chosen an interesting place to spend the winter.
If a humpback male’s biggest challenge in mating is simply finding a female in estrus, a female’s may be to mate successfully with a high-quality (fit, healthy) male with the least possible energy expenditure.
What happens between a female and a male?
How do male and female humpbacks find, select and obtain mates? Does she simply swim onto the breeding grounds and make herself available? Does she behave in a way that encourages male competition? Does she actively choose males with specific attributes? Do females with and without calves behave the same way around males?
The answers to these questions about male-female interactions are largely unknown and until only recently represented unexplored scientific territory. Dr. Meagan Jones set out to try and answer some of these questions through research supported by Whale Trust Maui.