The Full Sturgeon Moon rises tonight. A perfect time to set intentions and believe in magic!
I wonder if these intense lunar energies had anything to do with a baby gray whale who lost his way in our little beach town entering Agua Hedionda Lagoon from the ocean.
I happened to be in the right place at the right time with my lovely Canon and a decent lens and was lucky enough to snap these photos.
SeaWorld came to assess the situation and told me that he didn’t seem to be in distress; he was spouting every couple of minutes or so, which is completely normal, and he was rubbing his body against the rocks to try and dislodge all of the barnacles.
I did a little research and learned this about barnacles…
Gray whales are more heavily infested with a greater variety of parasites and hitchhikers than any other cetacean. Imagine carrying a load of hitchhikers on your back that can weigh several hundred pounds! Gray whales do this all their lives. Who’s riding, and why?
Big Batches of Barnacles
Those patchy white spots you see on gray whales are barnacles. Grays carry heavy loads of these freeloaders. The barnacles are just along for the ride. They don’t harm the whales or feed on the whales, like true parasites do. Barnacles don’t serve any obvious advantage to the whales, but they give helpful lice a place to hang onto the whale without getting washed away by water. Barnacles find the slow-swimming gray whale a good ride through nutrient-rich ocean waters.
As larvae, the whale barnacles swim freely in the ocean. But they time their reproduction so the larvae are swimming in the water of the nursery lagoons when the baby whales are born. Then the larvae jump aboard the whales arriving in the lagoons–as well as the newborn calves—to start their lives as hitchhikers. The most common barnacles on gray whales are host-specific, which means they occur on no other whales. One type of barnacle, Cryptolepas rhachianecti, attaches only to gray whales. Once this type of small crustacean has settled on “its own” gray, the barnacle spends its whole life hanging onto that whale.
Life is good if you’re a barnacle. Snug inside their hard limestone shells, the barnacles stick out feather feet to comb the sea and capture plankton and other food for themselves as the whales swim slowly along. As the young whales grow, the barnacle clusters grow too. Gradually the barnacles form large, solid white colonies. The colonies appear as whitish patches, especially on the whale’s head, flippers, back and tail flukes.
Whale biologists look at the pattern of barnacle clusters in order to tell individual grays apart. This is possible because no two barnacle clusters, like no two human’s fingerprints, are alike!
When the tide changed, he finally made it out beyond the jetty waves; hopefully he finds his mom and doesn’t wander into shallow water again!
Just another amazing day in paradise. So much magic and beauty to be grateful for!
Whale or SHARK?
My own little embellished-with-sparkles-gray whale rock is much happier barnacle-free, don’t you think?