Study Reveals Why Whales Roll on Seafloor

Humpback whale leaps out of the water in the channel off the town of Lahaina on the island of Maui in Hawaii.InternationalIndiaAfricaThe scholars behind the new study believe that whales engage in this activity in order to rid themselves of ectoparasites and dead skin.Researchers from the Griffith University in Australia have gained new insight into the grooming habits of humpback whales.Between August 2021 and October 2022, marine ecologist Dr. Olaf Meynecke monitored whales via tracking tags capable of recording audio and video footage.The data procured revealed that whales sometimes performed full and side rolls on the sandy seafloor in shallow waters, likely to remove dead skin and to get rid of barnacles.“On all occasions of sand rolling, the whales were observed on video to be slowly moving forward with their head first into the sand followed by rolling to one side or a full roll,” Meynecke said as quoted in a press release by the Griffith University.“During the different deployments, the sand rolling was observed in the context of socializing. The behavior was either following courtship, competition or other forms of socializing,” he added. “So we believe that the whales exfoliate using the sand to assist with molting and removal of ectoparasites such as barnacle and specifically select areas suitable for this behavior.”The researcher also observed that humpback whales can remove some, but not all, barnacles and dead skin by performing “surface activity such as breaches.”The study, authored by Meynecke and his colleagues from Griffith University and from Stanford University in the US, was published last month in the Journal of Marine Science and Engineering.

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