Subject: Head butting in male bottlenose whales (fwd)

Mike Williamson (
Thu, 8 Oct 1998 21:25:08 -0400 (EDT)

Subject: Head butting in male bottlenose whales

This summer, during research on northern bottlenose whales we
 encountered two mature males which were engaged in a fairly
 stereotyped behaviour of circling each other and then heading
 towards each other, meeting underwater and bumping heads.   This
 behaviour had not been previously observed in 10 years of  studying
 northern bottlenose whales.

I have searched through the literature for any other instances of
headbutting in male marine mammals and only found a few very brief
mentions of this behaviour in harbour seals,  pilot whales and
bottlenose dolphins (see list of references at end). Scarring
indicates this might happen in narwhals, although tusks would make
this behaviour somewhat different.  Most of these references do not
give any information on the context of these interactions.  


Bigg, MA, 1981.  Harbour seals.  In Handbook of Marine mammals volume
2.  pp.1-27.

Felix, F. 1997.  Organization and social structure of the coastal
bottlenose dolphin Tursiops truncatus in the Gulf of Guayaquil,
Ecuador.  Aquatic Mammals, 23: 1-16.

Gerson, HB and Hickie, JP. 1985.  Head scarring on male narwhals
(Monodon monoceros):  evidence for aggressive tusk use.  Canadian
Journal of Zoology.  63:  2083-2087

Reilly, SB. 1978.  Pilot whale.  In Marine mammals of the Eastern North
Pacific and Arctic waters.  Edited by D. Haley.  Pacific Search
Press. pp 112-119.
Shannon Gowans
PhD candidate
Department of Biology
Dalhousie University
Halifax, NS, Canada
B3H 4J1