Conjoined Gray Whale Twins

On January 5, 2014 fishermen found conjoined gray whale twin calves floating in a lagoon in Ojo de Liebre lagoon, in Baja California, Mexico. Some reports say that fishermen discovered them while others say scientists made the discovery. Their heads and tails were fully formed and they were linked at the waist. Gray whales journey from the Arctic Ocean south along the coast of California, nearly a 6,000 mile journey, give birth on the way in the lagoons. Typically their gestation lasts for 13.5 months and usually gray whale calves are 12 to 16 feet in length. National Geographic says these calves “measured about seven to ten feet…in length” which is much shorter than most fully developed calves.  This shortened length could be attributed to that

  1. like with many other mammalian species, multiple fetuses developing at once will be born at a smaller size than one ‘normal’ sized fetus
  2. the calves were born prematurely
  3. the calves were aborted.

the calves may have been born prematurely

photo by Farah Castillo

I do wonder how coordinated these two would have been to breathe. They would have to take breaths at the same moment and maneuver to consume enough nourishment throughout their lives. From the photographs of the twins they were joined belly-to-belly and would have had to either take turns when coming of up for air or else swim and breach straight up into the air. 

gray whale breaching vertically

Most of all I wonder on the conditions of their birth. Did the mother survive? Did she attempt to nurse them after they were born? If they were aborted was it for deformity or some other chemical reason? 

When it comes to marine animals we know so little scientifically. Sometimes I fear the ocean, with its great power and mystery, yet at the same time those very factors are what captures my attention about marine biology. Nature is both terrifying and stunning in the same breath  to me.


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Until next week, happy exploring!

2 thoughts on “Conjoined Gray Whale Twins

  1. How sad. Hopefully it isn’t something in the water that affected the mother to go into labor prematurely. Heartbreaking questions that will never be answered. Thanks for sharing this.

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