Turns out whales don't jump out of the water just for fun

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Scientists might have figured out why some whales leap out of the ocean.

It's pretty common for whales to slap their fins and tails on the surface, but hurling a 33-ton body out of the water takes a lot of energy.

And because whales fly out of the ocean during migration when a lot of them fast, breaching must be important.

Turns out, several groups of humpback whales off the Australian coast held the answer. Researchers studying the whales think the mammals can communicate by flying out the water.

The results of the study were published in the journal Marine Mammal Science.

The whales studied reportedly breached more often or were more likely to breach when they were farther apart — a couple miles apart.

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Stunning humpback whales in the wild
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Stunning humpback whales in the wild
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 15: A Humpback whale in mid lunge, feeding on Bunker off NYC's Rockaway Beach on September 15, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Artie Raslich/Getty Images)
SEA OF CORTEZ, BAJA CALIFORNIA, MEXICO - 2015/02/20: Humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) slapping the pectoral fin on the water in the Bahia de La Paz, Sea of Cortez in Baja California, Mexico. (Photo by Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Humpback mother and calf.Baja Coast MexicoThe 2 whales were swimming along the Baja coast of Mexico, in the Pacific Ocean just outside Cabo
Humpback whale calf with mother shot in Vava'u Tonga in clear water. Sun is sparkling on the whales back.
Pod of humpback whales Maui, Hawaii at sunset.
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USA, Alaska, Humpback Whales (Megaptera novaengliae) sending up plumes of mist while group feeding in Chatham Strait on summer evening
(photo: Pat Hawks/Flickr)
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SEE MORE: The Ocean Is Too Loud For Whales And Dolphins

The team thinks that has to do with background ocean noise. From far away, it'd be a lot easier to hear a giant thud than a smacking tail slap.

That theory seems to be an "aha" moment for some in the scientific community. A biologist not affiliated with the study told Hakai Magazine it makes "perfect sense."

"If there's a lot of noise, it might be easy to drown out," he said. "Leaping up in the air and splashing down is equivalent to the really keen kid in a classroom jumping up and down waving his arms."

Whales have a lot of ways to communicate with their pods. Scientists have tracked humming, grunts and even special clicking patterns the groups use to track or find food.

They've even detected regional "accents." A study from 2016 found a group of sperm whales in the Caribbean used distinct calls other pods around the world don't make.

But up to this point, breaching has been pretty mysterious. Turns out, it's likely a flashy way for the massive creatures to say "hello."

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Weirdest sharks, whales & sea life
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Weirdest sharks, whales & sea life

Close up of bull shark.

(Getty Images/Flickr RF)

This massive whale shark slowly swam right at me just below the surface in crystal clear water just off of Molokini Crater, Maui, Hawaii.

A whale shark, nearly six meters (20 feet) long, swims with its huge mouth open near the surface of the plankton-rich water of Donsol town, 24 May 2007. The whale sharks (scientific name: Rhinchodon typus) have been slaughtered in some other parts of the country before, but environmentalist came to the rescue of the endangered giant fish and developed an eco tourism program for Donsol, turning what was once a backward fishing town in the eastern Philippines into a prime tourist spot offering visitors a swim with the whale sharks and transforming local fishermen into whale spotters, dive guides and whale protectors.

(SCOTT TUASON/AFP/Getty Images)

Tiburon prehistorico filmado vivo en Japan

(kainita/Flickr)
Basking shark or Cetorhinus maximus 

(Getty Images)

In this handout picture released by Awashima Marine Park, a 1.6 meter long Frill shark swims in a tank after being found by a fisherman at a bay in Numazu, on January 21, 2007 in Numazu, Japan. The frill shark, also known as a Frilled shark usually lives in waters of a depth of 600 meters and so it is very rare that this shark is found alive at sea-level. It's body shape and the number of gill are similar to fossils of sharks which lived 350,000,000 years ago.

(Photo by Awashima Marine Park/Getty Images)

This picture taken on August 1, 2014 shows a dead whale shark being carried on a tractor in a seafood wholesale market in Xiangzhi township in Quanzhou, east China's Fujian province. Local fishermen caught the whale shark which they thought was a 'sea monster' and reported to local police after returning from the sea, local media reported.

(STR/AFP/Getty Images)

This picture taken on August 1, 2014 shows a dead whale shark being carried on a tractor in a seafood wholesale market in Xiangzhi township in Quanzhou, east China's Fujian province. Local fishermen caught the whale shark which they thought was a 'sea monster' and reported to local police after returning from the sea, local media reported.

(STR/AFP/Getty Images)

In this handout picture released by Awashima Marine Park, a 1.6 meter long Frill shark swims in a tank after being found by a fisherman at a bay in Numazu, on January 21, 2007 in Numazu, Japan. The frill shark, also known as a Frilled shark usually lives in waters of a depth of 600 meters and so it is very rare that this shark is found alive at sea-level. It's body shape and the number of gill are similar to fossils of sharks which lived 350,000,000 years ago.

(Photo by Awashima Marine Park/Getty Images)

In this handout picture released by Awashima Marine Park, a 1.6 meter long Frill shark swims in a tank after being found by a fisherman at a bay in Numazu, on January 21, 2007 in Numazu, Japan. The frill shark, also known as a Frilled shark usually lives in waters of a depth of 600 meters and so it is very rare that this shark is found alive at sea-level. It's body shape and the number of gill are similar to fossils of sharks which lived 350,000,000 years ago.

(Photo by Awashima Marine Park/Getty Images)

Common Thresher Shark (Alopias vulpinus) swimming above a coral reef, Big Brother Island, Egypt.

(© imagebroker / Alamy)

Thresher shark 

(Raven_Denmark/Flickr)

Greenland shark

(Photoshot Holdings Ltd / Alamy)

Greenland Sleeper Shark, Somniosus microcephalus, and diver. St. Lawrence River estuary, Canada. Wild & unrestrained shark. 

(Doug Perrine via Getty Images)

Greenland Sleeper Shark, Somniosus microcephalus, swimming over field of plumose anemones, Metridium senile. Parasitic Copepod, Ommatokoita elongata, attached to eye. St. Lawrence River estuary, Canada.

(Doug Perrine via Getty Images)

Cornish fisherman Chris Bean's crewmate Mario 'Chino' Rios brings aboard a monkfish (which was later sold directly to the exclusive Paternoster Chop House in the heart of the City of London) caught using overnight nets, a few miles out to sea near Helford on February 25 2009 in Cornwall, England. The Cornish-born 61-year-old skipper of the vessel, the Lady Hamilton - which he had built a year after he started fishing professionally in 1972 - fishes most days, catching fish such as monkfish, sole and red mullet, as well as crab, using traditional, sustainable and environmentally friendly methods, which he then sells directly to local and national customers - including well known sushi eateries and exclusive restaurants in the heart of London. After being caught, the fish is brought ashore at Helford - which was at the centre of a planning row with local fishermen and second home-owners about the construction of a new jetty - is boxed in ice and sent by courier directly to national buyers, often leading to the fish being presented on the plates of restaurant customers in the capital less than 24 hours after being caught of the coast of Cornwall.

(Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

In this handout picture released by Awashima Marine Park, a 1.6 meter long Frill shark swims in a tank after being found by a fisherman at a bay in Numazu, on January 21, 2007 in Numazu, Japan. The frill shark, also known as a Frilled shark usually lives in waters of a depth of 600 meters and so it is very rare that this shark is found alive at sea-level. It's body shape and the number of gill are similar to fossils of sharks which lived 350,000,000 years ago.

(Photo by Awashima Marine Park/Getty Images)

A 130-centimetre long goblin shark swims in a tank at the Tokyo Sea Life Park's aquarium in this handout photo taken on January 25, 2007 by the park in Tokyo. The Goblin Shark, a deep sea "living fossil" shark, was caught off the shallows of Tokyo Bay and survived barely a week in its new environment. The shark was the second deep sea shark to have been found in the same month.

(REUTERS/Tokyo Sea Life Park/Handout)

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