#19: Flukes, Flukes and more Flukes

If you an avid reader of our blog then you likely know that we are able to individually identify right whales by using the unique callosity pattern found on the top of their head.  However, in some whale species it's the ventral side of the tail fluke that is used for individual identification. 

Example 1: The Sperm Whale

Image of a sperm whale taken in 2011
Photo: New England Aquarium

Look at the ventral fluke of this sperm whale.  By using both the shape of the wavy trailing edge of the fluke and the small white/yellowish scar on the right tip we are able to determine that we have seen this individual in 2011, 2013 and this past August (2014).

This 2013 photo shows the same wavy trailing edge and the distinct white/yellowish  scar on
the right ventral fluke tip.  
Photo: New England Aquarium
The now familiar fluke was photographed in August 2014 by Liz Burgess aboard the R/V Callisto.

Example 2: The Humpback Whale:
Humpback whales have a distinct pattern of pigmentation on their ventral fluke. The fluke can range from all white to all black.
This humpback whale is named "shark" for the shark-like head on the right ventral fluke. Can you see the shark face?
Photo: Liz Burgess/New England Aquarium

"Shuttle" (see the space shuttle on the right fluke) is another humpback photographed by Liz Burgess as she and the R/V Callisto crew surveyed Grand Manan Banks last week.

*A special thank you to Allison Glass Henry and Brigid McKenna for humpback IDs.


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