Whales are right handed… sort of

Many whale species like orcas show a bias for their right hand side when searching for prey, but nobody knows quite why just yet

research paper published in July 2015 reported that killer whales, along with several other species, prefer to lunge to the right to catch prey. 75 per-cent of killer whales chose to leap to the right when in pursuit of an animal rather than the left. So technically they aren’t all right handed (or finned), but it’s a number significant enough for scientists to want to investigate more.

fin whale white jaw asymmetric animal
The white right jaw of the fin whale

No bias was found when the whales jumped in the absence of prey, with roughly a 50:50 split between leaping direction. The researchers don’t know what causes this phenomenon, but killer whales aren’t the only whale to feed with the right side of their bodies.

Fin whales, the second largest whale species, have asymmetric colouration along their jaw. The left hand lower jaw is the same grey as the rest of the body, but the right hand jaw is white. Asymmetry is rare in the animal kingdom, and no one knows exactly why fin whales have developed it.

One theory is that the white jawline tricks small fish in front of the whale’s mouth into thinking they are safe before being engulfed by the whale. Minke whales also use white patches to lure in fish, and have white bands on each pectoral fin to hypnotise approaching prey.

If you want to see wild whales, get your hands on the cheetah edition of World of Animals. This issue contains the ultimate guide to whale watching, from clues about where whales feed to identifying animals in seconds. Pick up your copy online now, or get a great deal by subscribing or becoming a digital reader today.

latest World of animals magazine


Image from flickr.com/photos/seaotter