Like Pepper, Coral’s life and family tree have been marked by human interactions beginning with his mother, Silver. Silver was originally called Long John Silver because she was missing half of her tail fluke. It is thought Silver missing part of her fluke is the result of human interaction. Silver’s first calf and Coral’s older sister, Beltane, died in 1987 a year before Coral was even born. Beltane was found dead after eating mackerel contaminated by red algae and was sadly one of many who met with this fate that year.
Coral was born the following year, in 1988, and in his first year survived an attack by orca whales. Coral has several scars or rake marks on his fluke as a reminder of this terrible attack.These black lines are spaced out exactly like the orca whales teeth. These rake marks are fairly common on the tail fluke as that’s the means of propulsion to escape an attack. The orca knows that if they can damage the tail flukes, they stand a better chance of getting the whale.
At the age of three Coral suffered the loss of his mother, Silver; she was found dead on Long Island due to entanglement in fishing gear. Since then Coral has grown into a very sociable humpback often sighted swimming with other whales. In fact, he’s become so social that he was spotted accompanying a dying right whale in 2005.
The article reporting their rare association said, “They are an odd couple. A dying right whale, limping along with half a fluke and a healthy humpback swimming by her side... In March, the right whale was hit by a 42-foot recreational vessel off Cumberland Island in Georgia... When she dies, it will deepen the tragedy that has evolved over the past 10 months in which 5 percent of all reproductively active female right whales have been killed, mostly by humans”
As rare as this pair was, it was also ironic that Coral was spending time with a female who, like his mother, had lost part of her fluke due to a vessel strike. And we know that it was Coral because the tuna spotter that sighted this odd right and humpback pair took photos from above. Fortunately, Coral has some rare scaring on behind his blowhole so it was easy to identify which humpback was traveling with the injured right whale – even from above which is not the norm.
We believe this scaring occurred in the breeding grounds as a result of male rowdy behavior while competing for females.
Coral himself also became entangled in fishing gear in 2005 – he was able to free himself from that gear. He was first sighted with gear on him in October and then was seen gear-free in November. We have continued to see Coral, just as social as ever. In fact this year we saw him off of Chatham, way down on the back side of Cape Cod. You can keep up with Coral's future escapades on Twitter