Humpback whale and her calf spend the afternoon “kelping”

It’s a well known fact that whales are among the smartest mammals in the animal kingdom. They use haunting whale songs to identify family groups and communicate over long distances, and are also known to engage in organized, social behaviour.

But why on earth would a grown humpback whale and her calf spend their time draping themselves in sea kelp?

Alisa Schulman-Janiger, who researches whales for a living, has a simple theory: “Probably because it feels really, really good.” In a rare video captured by Larry Hartmann while running tours on the Ocean Explorer based out of Newport Beach, California, the whales can be seen frolicking in beds of floating kelp. This curious practice has come to be called “kelping.”

The video is generally noteworthy because humpback whales are not often spotted in that region. Unseasonably warm weather has also caused lots of kelp to die in the area, creating floating islands of plant matter that are ideal for kelping.

Humpback whales are often encrusted with barnacles, and can be preyed upon by skin parasites, so it’s possible the behaviour is their version of scratching an itch. Whatever the reason, enjoy this fascinating video of some of nature’s largest creatures taking time out to relax.