For some reason, when it comes to sea creatures, it seems like the dolphin wins all the popularity contests. I mean, I get it, on the surface, they’re playful and acrobatic. We’ve all heard how smart dolphins are, not to mention the stories about them rescuing drowning humans. However, in reality, dolphins are kind of a bunch of jerks. It’s true. The Beluga whale really should get more credit, and here’s why.
They Can Swim Backwards
Dolphins may like to put on a show, but it’s all a front. Beneath the shiny performer exterior, dolphins do things like abuse their females and kill their young. No so with the Beluga. They have some moves too, but there’s no psychotic, flip-switch personality lurking beneath their playful demeanors. Belugas are among some of the only aquatic species that can swim backwards. Flipper couldn’t do that if he tried. Also, the vertebrae in a Beluga’s neck are not fused together, which gives them the unique ability to turn its head up, down and side-to-side.
They’re Social Butterflies (The Genuine Kind)
While dolphins are busy playing baby shark volleyball (seriously, this happened) and even attacking members of their own pod, like bottlenose dolphins often do, Beluga whales are busy non-violently socializing with each other. In fact, some scientists believe belugas spend more time interacting with each other (and other animals) than most any other type of cetaceans. They sometimes also migrate with other whales, and it’s not uncommon for them to branch off and join other pods.
Beluga’s have a melon-shaped head, which is flexible and allows the species to make facial expressions. Unlike any other whale species, Belugas can change the shape of their lips to create a whole variety of expressive features and sounds. Meanwhile, beneath the fatty layer of blubber, their forehead is comprised of acoustical lenses which help these whales communicate.
They’re The “Canaries of The Sea”
The Beluga whale is often referred to as the canary of the sea because of its unique, highly vocal abilities. And while many type of cetaceans (yes, even jerk-face dolphins) communicate using a system of clicks, whistles, moans and a menagerie of other “whale-speak,” Beluga whales were the first of their species to have discovered the ability to mimic human speech without any training. Noc, a whale captured by the U.S. Navy, began copying the cadence and timing of human conversation, and it was eventually determined he was attempting to make a more complex, interspecies connection. But even before Noc, Beluga songs have been recorded and heard by scientists and sailors from beneath the water and even through the hulls of boats. Pretty, amazing huh? Dolphins ain’t got nothin’ on these guys.