A leading British marine biologist says that he has found that sperm whales gather in groups as large as 70 to engage in a mass “scratchathon,” during which they exfoliate their outer skin.
Luke Rendell of the University of St. Andrews was studying the social life of the whales when he made the discovery.
“The shedding of skin is part of a natural antifouling mechanism to stop them being encrusted with other marine animals and parasites.” said Rendell. New Scientist reports he found that the whales “love touching against each other,” and can engage in the group grooming and frolicking for hours or days at a time.
On the Brink
No more than 30 miniature porpoises with cartoon like features are left in the northern Gulf of California, where experts are now considering keeping some in sea pens to prevent the marine mammals from going extinct.
Since 2011, 90 percent of the snub-nosed vaquita population has fallen victim to Asian appetites for an endangered fish called the totoaba, which swim in the same Mexican waters.
The porpoises get trapped and drowned in the curtains of illegal gill nets set to catch the totoaba, which can earn Chinese restaurants thousands of dollars each.