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Kelping Humpback Whale Runs Amok

Kelping Humpback Whale Runs Amok

Captain Dave ran to the southeastern portion of the Santa Barbara Channel today and encountered great sea and weather conditions. A total of 5 humpback whales were closely watched along with about 800 long-beaked common dolphins.

One smaller humpback, the 5th to be located today, spent the better part of a half hour kelping.   This whale swam from one drifting kelp paddy to the next and gave each a lot of attention.   Kelping is a behavior where marine animals such as whales, dolphins, sea lions, seals etc. purposely “entangle” themselves in the long stipes and fronds of giant kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera).   There are many theories as to why they do this.   One is, of course, that it must feel good to animals that do not have hands or fingers to reach those itchy spots. Another is removal of skin parasites and fouling organisms. Kelp is a distraction from the typically open blue water so it becomes a target of attention or play. Finally, giant kelp is one of only a limited number of “plants” (algae) that produces natural mucus. Perhaps by rolling around in the kelp some of this mucus coats the skin of the whale and benefits it in some way. It may be “all of the above” reasons, or it might be something else entirely. Stay tuned.

You never know what Mother Nature has in store. Bob Perry Condor Express

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