Like the Flemish painter, male humpback whales seem to prefer Rubenesque ladies.
For five years, University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo Assistant Professor of Biology Adam Pack studied courting behavior of whales wintering in waters off West Maui. His research team made visual observations and took measurements with a hand-held sonar device.
Males selected females to escort, favoring the largest and posturing or even attacking to discourage rivals.
In the whale world, fat equates to fit, he observes in a paper accepted for publication in the journal Animal Behaviour.
Larger, longer females have greater reproductive success, produce bigger calves and can draw on fat stores to nurse their offspring through the winter.
Pack, who received his MA and PhD in psychology from UH Mānoa, is co-founder and vice president of The Dolphin Institute, a Honolulu-based not-for-profit organization dedicated to study and preservation of marine mammals.