Humpback Whale Lobtailing

lobtailing humpback

Lobtailing is when a whale lifts its fluke (tail fin) out of the water and brings it down forcefully to slap the surface of the water with a big splash and loud report. Humpback whales will frequently lobtail repeatedly for several minutes at a time. They can lobtail both dorsally and ventrally (right side up as this photo shows or upside down), sometimes stopping just long enough to take a breath before rolling over to continue on the other side. As more and more whales are spending their summers in our viewing area, often as many as twelve to sixteen different whales a trip, the lobtailing is becoming more common. This tends to support the belief that lobtailing is most likely a form of non-verbal communication, like breaching or pectoral fin slapping, and can be used to call attention to an individual, to impress a potential mate or intimidate a foe.