A whale that lost its tail has found a way to swim on its side, and was spotted off the California coast
A gray whale without a tail was spotted off the coast of California on March 13.
The boat captain who saw the animal noticed it had learned how to swim with just its pectoral fins.
The whale likely lost its tail when it got caught in fishing gear, experts told Fox 11 LA.
A gray whale that lost its tail was spotted off the coast of California this month, revealing that it's found a way to swim on its side.
The tail-less whale was likely plying the 6,000-mile migration route between feeding grounds in Alaska and breeding grounds near Mexico, Jessica Roame, the education manager for Newport Whales in California, told Fox 11 Los Angeles.
"The whale is maybe a little underweight but not dramatically so," Roame told the outlet, calling the specimen a "miracle whale." That assessment implies the whale's tail injury hasn't prevented it from finding food or migrating, Newport Whales told Fox LA.
Whales primarily propel themselves with their flukes.
A drone operated by boat charter company Newport Coastal Adventure caught footage of the fluke-less whale in action.
—ABC7 Eyewitness News (@ABC7) March 29, 2023
Newport Coastal Adventure's owner, Ryan Lawler, told California daily The Orange County Register that his company spotted the whale on March 13. They noticed it was swimming with just the use of its pectoral fins while leaning hard to one side, he said.
"It definitely had a unique swimming style because it had to compensate for not having a tail anymore," Lawler said, per The Orange County Register.
Lawler said the whale was swimming at 3 miles per hour, compared to an adult gray whale's typical speed of 4 miles per hour, according to the outlet.
Fox LA, citing whale experts, reported that the whale likely lost its tail after it got caught in commercial fishing gear.
Another Newport sighting of a gray whale without a tail occurred in February 2018. A photographer who filmed the specimen said it was heading north and "favoring its right side after each breath."
"However, despite the impairment, the whale's doing seemingly well as it adapted to the loss of an integral limb," photographer Brooke Palmer wrote.
It is unclear if the whale sighted in 2018 was the same whale seen in March.
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