Mary’s Monday Metazoan: As we know on the internet, that’s one mode of communication

Watching carefully, I noticed that two other activities added to the commotion: sloughing of skin and defecation. Like other whales, sperm whales shed skin on a regular basis. This may be a mechanism to reduce the risk of infection and to rid the animals of external parasites. As the whales rubbed against one another, the physical contact dislodged flakes, sometimes entire sheets, of skin, which floated in the water like a blizzard of translucent dandruff.

Group defecation also seemed to play a prominent role. When a dozen or more whales defecated simultaneously, it created a cloud of poop that engulfed the ensemble, obscuring them from view and turning the seawater into an oily soup.

I think it’s a metaphor.


  1. dick says

    Jumpin’ Jeezus on a stick, that gives a whole new meaning to being in the shit!

  2. Ice Swimmer says

    Many ways to be social have evolved. O.O

    Group Defecators would be a great hardcore punk band name. On their gigs, people could rub their backs and sides against each other in mosh pits.

  3. anbheal says

    My uncle commanded the Portsmouth Submarine base for many years. Once he’d give the commands to the pilot and helmsman, and felt the sub get underway, he would smile, cast his hand forward, karate chop style, and cry out: “And we’re off! In a cloud of whale shit!”

    He’d also say this in his automobile, as soon as he got out of his driveway.

  4. Ragutis says

    From what i watched of the RNC tonight… metaphor apt as fuck. Has anyone recorded Sperm whales vocalizing “Benghazi”?

  5. madtom1999 says

    I suppose if you are trying to knock your parasites off by rubbing against someone who is trying to knock their parasites off against you it is sensible to try and ensure the parasites are somewhat blinded as to where their next bit of fresh whale skin might be and a good shit would seem the only option for a whale.
    Perhaps they are related to octopuses after all!

  6. hackerguitar says

    @4 – is that a reference to the Christopher Moore comedy “Fluke”? :)

    Used to sail off Cape Cod to watch whales – some of whom were larger than the 30′ sailboat we were on – and we always noticed that sometimes the whales were *way way way smellier* than others. FINALLY know why – thank you marine biologists and cetacean researchers for venturing where I would sail out of smell range.

    If cetaceans aren’t your thing, check out the cleverness of this cephalopod – it made today’s WaPo:

  7. JohnnieCanuck says

    @11 – interesting time warp you’ve been through. Flashbacks from overexposure to cetacean aromatic hydrocarbons?

  8. hackerguitar says

    We used to be outraged that the whales were swimming in a horribly polluted environment near Boston Harbor (e.g., attributing the smell that sometimes showed up when they breached to that – and no doubt there was some truth to it) but this explains the variance in odor better.

    …..and NEVER EVER EVER be on a wooden sailboat with mostly-unfinished decking when a whale blows within wind range, esp if the hatch is open. The smell is very persistent….