Bowhead whales use boulders to exfoliate, says study

Bowhead whales

The age-old mystery behind the odd behavior of whales inside the deep waters has finally been cracked. Researchers have found out that the bowhead whales use boulders for back scratch as well as to exfoliate their screen. These 60 feet long creatures having flippers instead of hands need something big and strong to exfoliate, and the giant boulders are the ideal ones to go with. The scientists saw this thing with the help of a drone camera that took aerial pictures of the bowhead whales in Canada’s Arctic. They finally got the answer as to why whales return to Cumberland Sound, Nunavut every summer and do some strange sort of behavior beneath the water near the seabed.

Although scientists were aware that Bowheads molted annually, they got surprised when they saw that these whale species use boulders to exfoliate. Lead author of the study, Sarah Fortune, a Ph.D. student at the University of British Columbia, Canada, said, “This was an incidental observation. We were there to document their prey and feeding behavior, but we noticed some strange behavior near the shore.”

The research team saw one of the whales rubbing against the rocks for at least eight minutes without a break which strengthened their doubt. Fortune further said that their team saw very clearly that whales were taking turns and rubbing their bodies on those giant rocks. Some were found bumping up against each other. She thinks that the warmer coastal waters during summer might have dragged the whales to exfoliate.

Previously, in 2014, a team of researchers found out a small group of odd and strange looking bowhead whales in a bay across the northeastern coast of Canada. They saw that the skins of those whales looked splotchy and light gray patches and also their dark gray back had loose skins. The bowhead whales kept rolling on their sides and backs and lifting their flippers out of the water. At that time the research team was astonished by this strange kind of behavior shown by the odd-looking whales, and after two years they have finally managed to unravel the mystery behind this strange behavior of whales. They got those findings using a DJI Phantom 3 Professional drone that took aerial picture and videos of 83 whales.

The strange behavior of whales has been witnessed by the Inuit people as well as whalers since centuries. They had reported that the whales were rock-nosing, but they did not know the exact reason behind it. Hence this latest discovery has answered this mystery that confused whalers as well as scientists for a long time. Bowhead whales have a lifespan of up to 200 years and are considered as one of the longest living marine mammals of the planet.

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