Humpback Whale Research
Several organizations in the
area have been conducting research on the whales of the Gulf of Maine for 30 or
more years. The basis of this research is a database catalog of identified
Humpback Whales. Individual Humpback whales can be identified by taking
pictures of the underside of the tail when it is raised for a dive.
Mother and Calf
The only permanent association
between Humpback Whales is the mother calf pair. Here the much small calf on
the left swims alongside the mother. While the calf is still with the mother, a
picture of the underside of the tail is obtained.
Each winter researchers get together to
compare photographs and assign names to the new calves. Whales are not given
human names or names that imply gender because the only sure way to decide if a
whale is a female is to see her with a calf. Names are usually selected to
remind the researcher of the tail characteristics. For example, a whale with a
long vertical mark was named Nile because the mark looked like a long
Some whale families have been followed from mother to daughter to
granddaughter. One whale is a known great grandmother.
|Whale Tail ID
This is the type of photograph that
can be used to identify an individual whale. Notice the tail is white and black
and the pattern remains for the life of the whale. The naturalist on your boat
will probably recognize the whales you see. Carole Carson
writes that this whale is "Putter".
Read more about the research program
and try your hand at identifying a whale see