Bubbles, a short-finned pilot whale that lived at SeaWorld San Diego for nearly 30 years, has died, the AP reports. Bubbles was in her mid-50s when she died Thursday. A necropsy will be performed to determine the cause of her death. Female pilot whales generally live to be about 60 in the wild, and Bubbles was believed to be the oldest of her species in a zoological park, SeaWorld said. Pilot whales, like killer whales, belong to the dolphin family and are considered highly intelligent and social, living in pods of 20 to 90. Animal activists have condemned marine parks for keeping animals that, in the wild, typically roam for thousands of miles.
Bubbles was captured off the California coast in the 1960s and performed in marine park shows most of her life. She was moved to SeaWorld in 1987 when her previous park, Marineland, closed. Park officials estimate 100 million people saw Bubbles perform over the decades. "I've never known an animal with a more impressive air spin, where she jumps out of the water and spins around at lightning speed," an assistant curator at SeaWorld San Diego said in 2010. The park has two younger performing pilot whales, Shadow and Argo. (Read more SeaWorld stories.)