Incredible footage shot by Leigh Torres, a marine ecologist and assistant professor at Oregon State University, shows a pygmy blue whale nursing its calf in the open ocean. Torres says in the video that she believes it is the first ever birds-eye-view footage of a baleen whale calf being nursed.
Baleen whales are a category of whale that includes blue whales and humpback whales. The video shows pygmy blue whales, a sub-species of blue whale which are found in the Indian Ocean and southern Pacific Ocean.
Torres and her team are researching the population and behaviour of blue whales in the South Taranaki Bight region of New Zealand. From their ship, the team could see two whales 100 meters away and could tell immediately from the difference in size that one was a mother and the other was her calf. They guessed that the calf was 4-6 months old.
"Whales and dolphins have to co-ordinate breathing with lactation and what we can see in this video is that the calf is alternating between coming to the surface to breath and then going under its mom for a period to suckle." Torres says in the video.
Torres also said that the calf will generally be considered weaned off its mother's milk at 5 or 7 months and will go off alone.
She also mentioned that the people should be wary of how we're using the area in which the blue whales live: "The South Taranaki Bight has a fair bit of industrial activity from oil and gas development and there's also vessel traffic through the area so there are a number of human uses that we just need to be able to manage appropriately in terms of protect of these blue whales and their habitats."