A video shot by Australian user TikTok has sparked a wave of interest from scientists and fans. In the footage, a humpback whale can be seen doing a rare “headstand”. This strange behavior raises many questions and has been attracting the attention of scientists for decades.
Such behavior, when the whale’s tail pops up out of the water and remains motionless, has amazed not only the author of the video, but also many other people. This phenomenon is sometimes called a “sail tail” because it resembles a sail raised from the ocean. However, this behavior is observed only rarely in humpback whales, gray whales, bowhead whales and right whales.
Not only in Australia, but also in other parts of the world, there have been documented cases of this behavior in humpback whales. For example, off the coast of Brazil, a long-term study of the species has observed tail swimming for several seconds to 12 minutes. Brazilian experts found that the whales slowly curled their tails around a longitudinal axis. This behavior was observed in both single whales and mothers with calves.
One possible explanation for this behavior is resting. A mother whale may turn upside down to rest and look after her calf. Also, tail swimming may be a way of cooling down. By exposing the underside of its tail to the wind, a whale can regulate its temperature. However, these hypotheses require further research to confirm.
Brody Moss, the author of the video, hopes that his observations will help scientists better understand this mysterious behavior of humpback whales.