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Truly an Artiste When Hunting

Artiste

Known since 1999, last seen in 2010
Adult female

Identification

The very first feature useful to identify this regular minke whale was the left fluke tip clearly bent like a sculpture, which has given her her name. The deformation was caused by an injury of unknown cause visible as a pinkish coloured open wound documented in 1999. At the beginning positive identification was  only possible when surface feeding as no distinct dorsal edge mark was visible.

Since 2008, however, a wound below her dorsal fin created a whitish scar like a paintbrush stroke, confirming the choice of her name. More and more experienced in identifying minke whales we are able to recognize Artiste at any sighting based on the shape of the dorsal fin and a very subtle hump at the posterior base.

Habitat use

Artiste is one of the specialists feeding in the mouth and lower waters of the Saguenay Fjord. The sighting data from 1999 to 2004 revealed that she was seen on xxx out of xxx day in the waters of the Saguenay Fjord. She clearly prefers this area and has therefore developed hunting behaviours mainly known from this feeding habitat.

Regularly her impressive hunting skills can be observed while sitting on the rocks at Pointe de l’Islet. Well-known even to whale watching boat captains and naturalists, she is one of the many specialized hunters, which tourists might always remember.

Behaviour

As a specialized hunter of the Saguenay Fjord, she developed her personal feeding strategies and techniques, which allow us to identify her even from  a distance. She was the first minke whale who picked up Loca’s trick of scaring the fish by slapping her head back onto the water surface. Although other individuals now perform such head slaps as well, Loca and Artiste are the two who apply it most. During multi-directional surfacings Artiste likes to perform a number of continuous surfacings applying a variety of entrapment manoeuvres like head slaps, chin-up blows in lateral and dorso-ventral plane, rolls to the right and fountain blows.

It always amazes me how she can surface in one direction just to lunge right back into the prey only a dozen seconds later. This means that she has turned her body of 10 m length and 10 tons of weight at 180°.

Special story

On June 24, 2007, Artiste was seen to breach 25 times lifting her full body into the air right in front of Pointe d’Islet. The next day we ourselves watched her performing 20 + breaches in a row. One wonders what made her do this? Although we never know for sure but sometimes it seems that the minke whales simply breach for the fjoy of it.. maybe especially after great and belly filling surface feeding.