From: Stanford University
Published July 10, 2017 01:54 PM

Stanford researchers observe unexpected flipper flapping in humpback whales

When Jeremy Goldbogen, an assistant professor of biology at Stanford University, affixed recording devices to humpback whales, it was with the hope of learning more about how the animals move in their natural environment – deep underwater and far from human’s ability to observe.

However, in the process of reviewing footage of the whales feeding in groups, he and his team noticed something unexpected. In rare instances, the cameras caught whales flapping their foreflippers like penguins or sea lions, but completely unlike anything seen before in whales.

“Whales power their swimming by using their muscular tails,” said Paolo Segre, a postdoctoral researcher. “However, in this case we have documented the first example of a whale flapping its flippers to move forward, using a motion similar to a bird flapping its wings.”

This novel movement, detailed July 10 in Current Biology, helps the researchers understand more about the abilities and anatomy of these mysterious animals and could also inform bio-inspired design.

Read more at Stanford University

Photo credit: NOAA via Wikimedia Commons

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