Whale Tails

Over the past six years, Kimberley Whale Watching has recorded tail fluke imges of Kimberley Humpback whales to add to a MICSPix database designed by Wheelock College in Boston, Mass.  These photographs allow researchers to monitor the movement, health and behaviour of individual humpbacks as they migrate up and down the Western Australian coast.

As Humpbacks dive they raise their tail flukes above the ocean surface,enabling us  to photograph the markings on the underside, or ventral surface, to add to the database.  The first North Atlantic Humpback whale tail fluke catalogue was published in 1976 by Allied Whale. Individual humpbacks are identified by the patterns of black and white pigmentation and scars on the underside of the flukes of their tails, and by the patterns on the tail’s trailing edge, the distinctive S-shaped scalloped part on the outside of the flukes, which has pointed tips and a deep median notch in the centre.   Tail flukes can be up to 5.5 m wide.

The narrow part of the tail where it meets the body is called the Caudal peduncle, and is relatively thin with the caudal vertibrae visible on the dorsal (upper) surface. On the ventral (under) side of the caudal peduncle is a protrusion or ventral keel known as the carina, which is found on all whales. Its function is obscure but it may aid stability in the water.

Whale Tails – Images by Annabelle Sandes & Richard Costin – Kimberley Whale Watching