Why do whales breach?
This is a question that has puzzled humans since ancient times.
Let’s take a look at some of the possible reasons why whales breach, as well as how breaching may have evolved over time.
Whales are large mammals of the order Cetacea.
There are around 80 known species of whales, which are split into two suborders: baleen whales (Mysticeti) and toothed whales (Odontoceti).
This article will focus on breaching baleen whales.
Breaching is the act of falling completely out of the water, exposing one’s full body.
Whales can breach both forwards and backward, with most species preferring to do so while swimming forwards.
Breaching is often described as a behavior unique to humpback whales, but it has been observed in multiple species of baleen whales.
Regardless, humpback breaching is the best known; this might be because they are more acrobatic than other baleen whales (scientists aren’t sure), or because they can be found in hotter climates—meaning that breaching is easier to observe as the water isn’t as cold.
What Are the Reasons Whales Breach?
Breaching may serve as a method of communication between whales and other members of their species.
It can communicate aggression or dominance, or excitement caused by an external stimulus (such as a whale-watching boat).
Breaching may be related to feeding or predatory behavior.
By breaching, whales can expose their prey before attacking it.
Whales may breach simply for the joy of it!
Whales are known to engage in play behavior with one another—and breaching can be considered an example of play.
Finally, breaching may be a strategy used by whales to rid themselves of parasites and dead skin.
This is especially common in humpback whales, which will breach and then land on their backs or sides.
No matter what the reason for breaching, it continues to astonish and delight passengers of whale watching boats today!
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