Pacman gets her name from the recognizable spot on her left side that looks like everyone’s favorite arcade game from the 80’s: Pac-man! Except we sometimes call her Ms. Pacman, since she is a female born to the famous Scarlett in 2014. Pacman is an example of successful “recruitment” to the PCFG population since she has returned to the Oregon coast many times since her birth. Across our many sightings of Pacman we have often seen her foraging in very close proximity to several older whales, including her mother Scarlett and Orange Knuckles, suggesting that she may be trying to copy and master complex feeding behaviors from more seasoned PCFG whales. These whales feed in shallow reef and kelp areas where capturing zooplankton prey is tricky, so whales perform cool but complicated feeding behaviors like side swimming, jaw snapping, and bubble-blasting, which probably take some practice to get right. We have watched Pacman repeat these behaviors right after nearby older whales performed the behavior (see image to the right), hinting that she is practicing and learning how to be a successful PCFG gray whale.
Facts and Figures
How to Identify Pacman:
We fly drones over whales and then measure how skinny or fat they are from the images we capture. We compare the body condition of whales using an index called the Body Area Index (BAI), which is like the Body Mass Index (BMI) used to compare the body condition of humans. Small BAI values mean the whale is skinnier and larger BAI values indicate the whale is fatter.