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The Whale at the Water Cooler

The Whale at the Water Cooler
*smack*! Excuse me, that wasn’t you I slapped, dear reader – that was for the smart aleck who saw the title and sniggered something about, ‘You really shouldn’t put yourself into your blogs, Shaw …’

… Anyhoo, this blog is a little bit about the wonder of whales, just another incredible inhabitant of our amazing planet.

A few unusual whale facts:

Female Humpbacks Have BFFs

The Mingan Island Cetacean Study group have been using photographic techniques to study humpback whales for the last 16 years. In that time, they began to realize that female humpback whales not only make friends with one another but reunite each year. They remember their pals and even find them across the ocean and among other whales. This was quite a shocking discovery, as up to this point scientists believed that humpback whales were generally unsociable towards each other.

When a female humpback meets her friend, they simply float along together, eating and enjoying each other’s company. These friendships seem to have benefits as female humpbacks who hang out in this way are healthier and give birth to more calves each year. However, friendships between females and males (or even male-male friendship) are mostly unheard of. For reasons that no one can explain, only the ladies like to hang out with each other.

Sperm Whales Sleep Standing Up

Until fairly recently, whales were all thought to share the sleep pattern of dolphins, who sleep with half their brain, letting them keep one eye open for threats. However, a group of scientists in 2013 following sperm whales fitted with location tags discovered something very different and bizarre.

They found the whole pod just of the coast of Chile with their bodies’ vertical to the surface of the water and their heads just bobbing at the surface. The scientists were able to get right into the middle of the pod and could even nudge one of the whales. At that point, all the whales sprung to life and took off. They had been sleeping.

This means that sperm whales sleep in one of the weirdest ways known within the animal kingdom. We think that they dive down and grab snatches of sleep that can last up to about 12 minutes and then slowly drift to the surface head-first. Also, for some reason that remains unknown, they only sleep between the hours of 6:00 PM and midnight.

Whale Song Spreads Like Pop Music

Scientists studying humpback whale songs in 2011 discovered something very odd. The rise and decline of an individual whale’s song is very much like that of a pop song.

In any area shared by whales, everyone sings the same song. Over time, the song will change, and if the new song is catchy enough, it will spread to other populations of whales. When a new whale song comes out, it’s sometimes a sort of remix of the previous song. And that’s not just a gross oversimplification—a researcher from the University of Queensland who has been analysing this odd trend described it as “like splicing an old Beatles song with U2.”

Other times, the new song can be completely original. The more popular songs act like chart music, rising in popularity as they’re sung by more whales and then travelling eastward to other whale populations.

‘How longggggg? How long must we sing this songgggg?
How long? How long?’ ~
lyrics from Sunday Bloody Sunday as sung by U2 (and not the whales).

So, this is my whale (not swan) song or; ‘Ode to the Whaleth’ as sung by me, broadcasting from the water cooler area, where I’ve also set up a slight water balloon trap for Mr. Smart Aleck.

*excerpts from an article at List Verse

 

 



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