Whales are some of the most fascinating and mysterious creatures today. The sheer size of humpback whales and the blue whales alone elicit awe among biologists and casual nature observers alike. What makes these marine marvels extra-compelling are their spectacular breaches – the act of jumping out of the ocean just to splash back in grand fashion.
While this may seem like an act of showing off, especially for tourists and whale watchers on an All Sea Charters trip, experts know better: breaching requires a tremendous amount of energy on from whales that they assume it plays a major role in cetacean life. But what that role is remains quite perplexing.
Marine biologists from the University of Queensland observed pods or groups of humpback whales for 200 hours as they migrated to the Antarctic. Their findings indicated that breaching activities were more common when whale pods were far apart. The research team suggested that patterns of breaching and slapping may be a form of communication between pods. The impact of their bodies against the water produces sounds capable of travelling huge distances.
Other marine biologists think this makes perfect sense. Despite whales being able to produce vocalisations that can also travel extremely far, those sounds often get drowned out by other ocean-faring noise. This adds another interesting thread to the already mysterious nature of whale communication. Nearly all whale species use an assortment of low and high-frequency groans and cries for navigation, food-finding, and even ‘conversations’ with other whales across the ocean.
Another popular theory on the reason whales breach is rather simple: to scratch itches. Scientists think the splashing effect helps whales and other sea mammals get rid of parasites like barnacles or live that have attached themselves to their hides. Until science comes with conclusive findings, let’s just gaze in awe at the monstrous splashes these underwater behemoths are so fond of doing.