My Auntie has been observed in seven of 13 years, between 1994 and 2006. During the first encounter in 1994 we learned she was a female and her size suggested she was an older whale. Propeller marks on the left hand side of her head and, damage to her dorsal fin show that she had survived a vessel strike. The shape of her damaged and distinctive dorsal led to her name.
Above: My auntie puts her fluke high out of the water as she leads the males a merry chase during a competitive group encounter in 2001.
My Auntie was observed in competitive groups in 1994, 1998 and 2001. A competitive group consists of males involved in very strong interactions amongst each other in pursuit of a single female, known as the nuclear female. The behaviour amongst the males includes strong breaths, bubble streaming, head-lunges, and lob-tails. Often, as the aggressive interactions between the males escalate, they will intentionally bump and scrape into each other, causing vertical and horizontal marks. Usually one male adopts a dominant position, as principal escort beside the female, while other males called ‘challengers’ seek to displace him from the female’s side. Some males stay on the outskirts of the action and are called secondary escorts. These may be younger males watching and learning how to behave within a competitive group. Curiously females generally emerge unmarked from competitive groups but, like My Auntie, they often make their dominance and intentions very clear with strong behaviours such as lob-tails, and inverted lob-tails.
The left hand side of My Aunties propeller damaged dorsal.
Peru, a challenger to Hans Solo, has damage to his dorsal fin
from interactions with
other males within the competitive groups.
He also displays
the horizontal and vertical lines typically seen
on the bodies of
mature male escorts.
The distinctive shape of her damaged dorsal led to her being given
the name ‘My Auntie’.
Han Solo’s fluke, he was the primary escort to My Auntie
in competitive groups in 2001.