Whales are natural musicians, using a wide array of whistles, chirrups, clicks and moans to communicate. Many of the most famous are humpbacks, whose songs sweep the Pacific like hit singles and share rhythmic traits with human music.
Belugas may not belt out deep, soulful ballads like humpbacks, but that doesn't mean they're less musical. In fact, their high-pitched vocalizations long ago earned them the nickname "canaries of the sea" among whalers. And now there's mounting anecdotal evidence that belugas (along with other types of whales) may enjoy our songs as much as we enjoy theirs.
What kind of music are belugas into? There's the Raffi song "Baby Beluga," but that seems a little too obvious. The Canadian singer may live closer to belugas' polar habitat, but the video below suggests these Arctic animals have a thing for mariachi, a musical style born hundreds of miles away in Mexico:
On top of the beluga's head bobbing, the video also contains a more subtle (and less pleasant) sign of how much this marine mammal likes mariachi. If you look closely, you can see the beluga relieve itself at 1:05, presumably the cetacean version of swooning. (Hat tip to observant YouTube commenter sbCactus for noticing that.)
If you're wondering about the context, this serenade took place at the Mystic Aquarium in Mystic, Conn., where the band was already performing for a wedding. But Mystic's belugas aren't just mariachi aficionados — the following one-on-one flute concert was filmed at the same aquarium, and seems to elicit a similar response:
The flute video was uploaded to YouTube in August 2010, nearly a year before the mariachi one. That may not be enough to qualify as a meme, but it has all the makings: a bizarre, brief and oddly heartwarming stunt that can be imitated thousands of times before the Internet tires of it. Plus, it involves an animal — and even highlights that animal's high intelligence, which is a nice break from LOLspeak.
Beluga serenading is also less dangerous than some other animal-themed memes, such as owling and batting, but it may not be entirely risk-free. Consider this video, also from the Mystic Aquarium, in which an unserenaded beluga named Juno seems ready to chomp off a few hands:
Of course, belugas aren't actually a threat to people. The real lesson from these videos is that belugas and other whales are impressively smart animals that share our appreciation of music. It's the least we can do to serenade them once in a while.
If you'd like to pitch in, but don't feel qualified to personally serenade a beluga, you may want to contact Mariachi Connecticut, aka Los Trovadores de America. (Unfortunately, the second video's flutist is identified only as "music guy" on YouTube.) You could also attend a more established form of whale serenading: the Seattle City Cantabile Choir's annual Orca Sing, which marked its 12th anniversary in June. The choir uses underwater speakers to pump its songs into Puget Sound, often attracting a pod of wild orcas. This YouTube video chronicles the group's 2008 performance.
For more mariachi-beluga antics, watch outtakes from the Mariachi Connecticut performance here and here. And for more information about belugas in general, check out this beluga fact sheet from the American Cetacean Society.