Watch This Rare Glimpse of Killer Whales Rubbing Their Bellies on Beach Stones

An amateur videographer records a behavior unique to one group of imperiled Pacific coast orcas.
Feb 2, 2015·
Emily J. Gertz is an associate editor for environment and wildlife at TakePart.

In this video, several Northern Resident killer whales take turns rubbing themselves on the small, smooth, black pebbles that coat the surf zone of a beach in British Columbia.

"Probably feels like a nice massage," says one of the amateur videographers as the orcas swim 15 feet away.

The Northern Resident killer whale is the only orca population that has ever been observed demonstrating such behavior. Its habitat ranges from northern Vancouver Island to the waters of southeast Alaska.

Until we can speak orca, we may never know why they do it. Some scientists think the orcas are removing parasites or performing a mating ritual.

Or maybe they're simply enjoying how it feels—kind of like having a spa visit, whale-style.

The footage was posted to YouTube by Chris Wilton on Jan. 29. According to the CBC, he made the video in the Discovery Islands, near Canada's Campbell River.