Whales stop by Gold Coast bay for day spa fix with full body scrubs
Published:05 May2023    Source:Griffith University
A new Griffith University study has found that humpback whales will use sandy, shallow bay areas to 'roll' around in sandy substrates to remove dead skin cells on their return journeys south to cooler waters.
Marine ecologist Dr Olaf Meynecke, from the Griffith-led Whales and Climate Research Program and Coastal and Marine Research Centre, used suction cup tags to track southward migrating whales between August 2021 and October 2022.Using data and footage collected from the tags, whales were observed performing full and side rolls in up to 49m water depth on the sea floor that was lined with fine sand or rubble.

Humpback whales host diverse communities of skin bacteria that can pose a threat for open wounds if bacteria grow in large numbers,Removing excess skin is likely a necessity to maintain a healthy bacterial skin community. Humpback whales can remove some barnacles and skin through surface activity such as breaches but not all.Skin from the whales was observed to be falling off during the process of all identified rolls, and fish such as juvenile silver trevally were seen to be actively feeding from the whales' skin during this behaviour similar to cleaning stations are coral reefs.