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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Beluga ( Delphinapterus leucas) Bubble Bursts: Surprise, Protection, or Play?

  • Author(s): Hill, Heather M. M.;
  • Kahn, Marielle S.;
  • Brilliott, Lucas J.;
  • Roberts, Briana M.;
  • Gutierrez, Christie;
  • Artz, Stephanie
  • et al.
Creative Commons 'BY' version 4.0 license

Cetaceans produce a variety of bubble displays, ranging from bubble streams to very large bursts of air. Previous research has indicated that different types of bubbles serve different functions. Using archival video data, we investigated the frequency and function of bubble behavior for four beluga mother-calf pairs housed at Sea World San Antonio (SWSA, 2007-2010). Bubble bursts, large,forceful bursts of air released underwater, were the most frequent form of bubbles produced. The mothers primarily produced bubble bursts while swimming with their calves whereas the calves produced the majority of their bubble bursts during solitary activities. These results suggest that mothers may use their bubble bursts as a protective behavior or warning to threatening stimuli (e.g., other belugas) whereas when threatening stimuli are not present calves may produce bubble bursts as a form of play. Additional research is necessary to better understand if these bubble displays areunder the intentional control of the animals producing them.

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