Humpback whale - Kelping.

Krill gets giant blue whales and humpbacks excited.

2017 09-29 SB Channel

Totals for the day included: 2 blue whales, 8+ humpback whales, and over 1,000 long-beaked common dolphins.

The action today was 8 or 9 miles southwest of Santa Barbara Harbor where the Condor Express crew found excellent conditions for wildlife location and viewing.  Seas were calm.  Skies were sunny, and there was a pleasant breeze wafting across the water.  Thousands of migratory pelagic birds, sooty shearwaters mostly, were all around the hot spot.

Captain Dave and his crew speculated there was good krill biomass beneath the surface and thus both species of baleen whales were found diving and otherwise quite active.  The giant blues consisted of one very large individual and one a bit smaller.  Among the humpback whales two of them located drifting, detached giant kelp paddies on the surface and spent a fair amount of time wallowing in the seaweed.

We call this behavior “kelping,” and there are many theories about why it occurs.  Chief among them, the playful nature of the intelligent humpbacks, the possible removal of barnacles and other skin parasites, sloughing-off and rejuvenation of the skin (exfoliation), and the general stimulation of sensitive skin are theories that we hear most frequently. I personally don’t rule out the intra-species signaling this behavior may serve between the active whale and its more docile cohorts.

The resulting disruption of the collective algae may help break up the seaweed mass, release spores that drift downstream and form new kelp individuals, and thin things out so more sunlight can penetrate the remaining fronds promoting continued growth (and potentially even more spore production and dissemination later).

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

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