A rare "superpod" of dolphins formed this week off the coast of Southern California not far from the shipping lanes — a treacherous aquatic crossroads where ocean life collides with port traffic.
KPCC spotted the frolicking cetacean convergence around 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday in the waters off Long Beach past Rainbow Harbor.
Pods of Pacific white-sided dolphins were seen consorting with crews of common dolphins to create a widespread, fast-moving circus of jumps, spins, dives, and other acrobatic water feats.
We encountered the dolphin party while out searching for an 80-foot whale (on a 65-foot boat) as part of a Harbor Breeze excursion to learn about the elusive, endangered creatures recently seen in the area.
io9 reports that researchers have released the first audio evidence of a cetacean spontaneously mimicking human speech (listen below to see how a whale thinks we sound).
The kibbitzing cetacean in question is not a trained dolphin but rather a beluga whale named "NOC," who was part of the U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program in San Diego, California.
NOC died in 1999, but his vocalizations, both in air and underwater, were recorded and investigated by researchers, revealing an "amplitude rhythm similar to human speech," according marine scientist Sam Ridgway in the newest issue of Current Biology.
Ridgway calls the white whale's intervals, frequencies, octaves, and harmonics "unlike usual whale sounds, but not unlike those of the human voice" and believes NOC's mimicry is a feat of "vocal learning."