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Scientists Capture First Ever Photos of Sex Between Humpback Whales... and Both Were Male

Kilian Melloy READ TIME: 2 MIN.

It was love beneath the waves, as well as a major scientific discovery, when two humpback whales – both male – were observed having sex in the South Pacific waters near the Hawaiian islands.

UK newspaper the Guardian reported that the intimate encounter was photographed by two photographers, Lyle Krannichfeld and Brandi Romano, in January of 2022 off the coast of Maui.

The pair "approached and circled a boat before engaging in sexual activity about three to five meters below the vessel," the writeup narrated.

The Guardian detailed that the clench amounted to "the first evidence of homosexual behavior in humpback whales as well as the first sighting of sex in the species."

"Homosexual behavior is common in the animal kingdom and has been spotted among dolphins and orca whales," the article added, "but never previously between humpback whales."

The cetacean hookup has now been "confirmed by scientists in a newly published study" that appeared in Marine Mammal Science, the article added. Lead author Stephanie Stack noted that the sex lives of humpback whales had been "mostly a mystery until now," a characterization that spoke to the groundbreaking nature of the sighting.

"The penises of male humpback whales are usually concealed in what is known as a 'genital slit' to make it more streamlined while swimming," the Guardian contextualized. "An unsheathed penis has only been witnessed a small number of times in the past, once while a whale was urinating."

"According to the new research paper, cetaceans such as humpback whales could use the genital slit or anus for same-sex copulation, to practice reproductive behaviors or to form a social alliance or assert a sort of dominance," the newspaper article added.

"This discovery challenges our preconceived notions about humpback whale behavior," Stack noted. "While we have long recognized the complex social structures of these incredible creatures, witnessing the copulation of two male whales for the first time is a unique and remarkable event."

by Kilian Melloy , EDGE Staff Reporter

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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