Why Do Humpback Whales Breach?

black whale in ocean
Photo by Andre Estevez on Pexels.com

Cetacean surfacing behavior or breaching is a bunch of strange behaviors exhibited by the Cetacea infraorder when they arrive on the water’s surface to breathe. Time periods between surfacing can differ depending on surfacing style, the species, or the purpose of the great dive; some whale species have been seen diving for up to 1.5 hours at a time when hunting, and dives over three hours have been seen in Cuvier’s beaked whale under violent conditions.

In simpler words, breaching is when large marine mammals propel themselves out of the sea and land with an unbelievable splash – and humpback whales are thought to jump out (breach) more than any other present-day whales.

Many who are unfamiliar with humpback whales are often intrigued by the sight of the animals breaching the surface of the water. To experience what these magnificent creatures have to offer firsthand is a must, so it is important to find a way that allows visitors the opportunity to do just that. Many places offer these types of whale watching adventures, so whether you are planning a trip to the islands, the southern Caribbean, or Hawaii, there is sure to be a place that offers you the ultimate close encounter with one of nature’s greatest marvels. 

While observing a large whale breach is dramatic, we have to question why they do this jumping out and splashing. The truth is, researchers aren’t really sure, but they have some ideas:

  1. Perhaps they are trying to stun small fish – making them easier to catch
  2. It could be that they are trying to remove skin parasites, such as barnacles.
  3. It could be a way for them to cool off.
  4. It may be a communication tool, a way to signal to others. Young whales who have lost their mother have been seen breaching over and over again, or perhaps it’s to attract a mate or to show aggression.
  5. Or, maybe they do it because they just simply enjoy it!

According to my research, humpback whales are slapping and breaching their flukes and fins on the surface to communicate with other humpbacks. It is thought that all slapping creates a tone used to send messages to other humpback whales, and the big splashes are for sending messages long-distances to other large species across the ocean.

There is still much more that we do not understand about whales. Research is still ongoing, and understanding how they communicate, breed, and the hunt is only going to improve. As we learn more about the behavior of these amazing creatures, we can then begin to use this knowledge to help save other marine species. It is likely that understanding more about why do humpback whales breach the ice will help to help further protect ecosystems and prevent illegal poaching and other abuses of wildlife.

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