Featured Image Credit: Hiroya Minakuchi / Minden Pictures / Corbis
The ocean is full of life, from huge whales to tiny creatures too small to see without a microscope. Each species have their own set of unique characteristics, even some behaviors that we don’t know a whole lot about. For example, we recently learned that fish fart to communicate with one another. But another mystery that has hovered over scientists for eight year is why the quirky and adorable beluga whale blows bubbles, bubble rings and bubble streams.
Biologist Michael Noonan and his students recently made huge strides in the study of bubble semantics at Marineland Park near Toronto. They noticed that whales blow big bursts of bubbles through their blowholes when startled. But they found that bubble streams and rings in spirit of companionship.
Another discovery that was found was that males rarely, if ever, blew bubbles during mating season.
“That’s when they’re busy patrolling the pool, cruising for females,” Noonan says. But at the start of summer, males blew bubbles again and played with them to change their shapes and swam through them like they were hoops! “This is a species that makes its own toys,” says Noonan.
Noonan argues that whales display these bubble behaviors for the same reason that people may dance or draw: to express themselves. “We’re mammals and they’re mammals,” Noonan says. “That doesn’t mean their mental lives are identical to ours. But until proven otherwise, I think we can assume we are more similar than we are different.”