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Michael Noonan

ScienceShot: Why Are Male Whales Humping Each Other?

By: 
Sarah Webb
2010-07-29 15:43

WILLIAMSBURG, VIRGINIA—Call it the mystery of the humping whales. When the March mating season is over, male beluga whales at an aquarium in Ontario, Canada, thrust their pelvises at other males an average of almost 3 times per hour. Researchers say the unusual behavior—reported here this week at the 47th annual meeting of the Animal Behavior Society and published in the August issue of Polar Biology—could be a way for the males to establish dominance. It could also be some sort of play behavior. But lead author Michael Noonan, a biologist at Canisius College in Buffalo, New York, isn't convinced by either explanation. He's hoping more observations will help explain what's going on.

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