Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Skye. Skye Wonders, “Why do whales jump out of the water or breach?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Skye!

Ahoy there! We’re headed out into the open sea today. Fasten your life jacket and hop on the boat, because we’re going whale watching. But wait—there’s one now. Can you see it? It’s a huge humpback whale, and it just jumped clear out of the ocean and into the air.

When whales  jump into the air like that, it’s called breaching. And it’s quite the sight to behold! We’ve been hearing about breaching from lots of our Wonder Friends. And many of them have the same question—why exactly do whales breach?

The answer is that experts aren’t quite sure. Breaching doesn’t seem to serve any obvious purpose. But they do have a few hypotheses for why the world’s largest mammals love to leap from the ocean into the air.

Whales may breach to clear their skin of parasites and other small animals. Have you ever swatted a mosquito off of your arm? If so, you know how annoying it can be to have an uninvited animal on your skin. Some experts think breaching is whales’ way of doing the same thing. It might serve to remove other organisms from their bodies.

Another hypothesis is that whales breach to communicate with each other. You might already know that whales sing to each other beneath the water. Whale songs are often long and complex, and they can travel pretty far underwater. However, in rough seas, songs don’t go as far. Breaching is much louder, so some experts believe whales may breach to call out to each other when the water is rough.

Researchers have evidence for this theory. One study found that whales were more likely to breach if other whales were less than 4,000 meters (about 2.5 miles) away. This could mean that they find breaching a faster or louder way of communicating. Additionally, baby whales have been seen breaching repeatedly if they’ve lost sight of their mothers. Some experts believe this is a method of telling the mother whales their location.

Of course, there’s also the possibility that breaching is just fun. If you’ve ever lept from a diving board, you know how much fun it can be to jump from the air into the water. Why wouldn’t the opposite be just as much fun? Maybe breaching is the marine world’s version of diving.

Are whales the only animals that breach? No, plenty of others do it too! Dolphins are also well-known for breaching, as are sharks. Rays also breach frequently. Many other species of fish are also known to jump above water from time to time. 

Why do you think whales breach? Do any of these theories sound right to you, or do you have one of your own? Have you ever seen a marine animal breach? Many think it’s one of the most amazing sights in the world! 

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