Male humpbacks will compete fiercely, often in groups of several whales, to show they are the strongest and best choice for the female to mate with. They will often lunge out of the water, filling their mouths with water as they do so for additional weight before coming crashing down on their competitors. Their strong flukes and pectoral fins will thrash the surface of the water as the whales take mighty swings at each other. The bulk of these battles take place below the surface and for those of us on the surface in boats we only get to see a very small but spectacular part of the contest. The bumps on the head of the whale – tubercles, which each contain a small hair and nerve endings, often become red and sore as the skin gets scraped off. These battles are not to the death though and as each whale in the active group grows tired he drops away and eventually there becomes a winner, who in turn, after all his efforts, hopes the female will choose him. See more whales in the Maui and Whale galleries.
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