In an incredible world first, a blue whale calf has been filmed nursing from its mother.
Wildlife film maker Patrick Dykstra who took the footage was just off the south coast of Sri Lanka when he captured this awe-inspiring sight.
He explains, ‘We were working on a blue whale research project and we were trying to document various blue whale behaviours when we came across this mother and baby early in the day off the coast of Sri Lanka.’
‘We followed this mother and baby blue whale for around 5 or 6 hours and the baby spent most of that time going back and forth underneath the mother, trying to stay either in the protective area or the shade of the mother.’
‘To everyone’s surprise, after watching them for a long time, the baby moved into position next to the mother and actually turned on it’s side and moved back towards the mammary glands of the mother. Then you can see the nursing start.’
‘I’ve spent a huge amount of time with blue whales and I’ve never seen anything like it.’
Blue whale calves have a unique way of feeding, as although they rely on their mum for food for the first year of their lives, they are unable to suckle.
The baby will instead let its mother know that it is hungry by nudging her on the belly to get her attention. Then, the mum’s nipple will jut out from her mammary glands as she releases milk directly into the baby’s mouth.
Although Patrick couldn’t be prouder of the amazing footage he captured, he admits that filming this precious moment was far from easy.
He says, ‘the hardest thing about filming the whale and her calf in a nursing position like that was that we were out at sea, it was probably 10miles from shore. It was waves and current and swell and any time you have an aerial camera out at sea it’s a bit of a risk.’
Although this footage was filmed back in 2015, it has taken until now for Patrick to release it due to a different film project he was working on.
He says, ‘It was incredibly rare footage because blue whales are the biggest animal to ever inhabit the planet yet nobody had ever filmed a baby feeding from its mother before.’
‘Getting world first footage of the largest animal to ever inhabit the planet doing a behaviour that’s never been filmed before was incredibly special.’
Watch the full video above!