Baby whale's first breath caught on camera off Australia

Jul 23, 2009
This photo received from the Centre for Whale Research in Western Australia shows a new-born humpback whale calf being lifted clear of the water to take its very first breath off Ningaloo Reef in the waters off Western Australia. Australian scientists have photographed a humpback whale helping a newborn calf take what appears to be its first breath, a rare event/

Australian scientists have photographed a humpback whale helping a newborn calf take what appears to be its first breath, a rare event described as the "Holy Grail" for whale-watchers.

The marine scientists from Western Australia's Centre for Whale Research said they watched in astonishment as the mother swam beneath the distressed baby and lifted it above the , clearing its blowhole to take in air.

"We feel awed and privileged to have finally seen this spectacle after over 20 years of research," said scientist Curt Jenner.

The researchers said the water was full of blood, indicating the mother had just given birth on the off Western . They added that the "small and skinny" baby was instantly revived by its first breath.

"It was apparent that the calf was struggling to stay at the surface to breathe and was swimming around in tight, clockwise circles with only the tip of its snout protruding," said Jenner's wife and fellow scientist, Micheline.

"As soon as the cow lowered its newborn back into the water, its little tail flukes began to beat like a wind-up toy being lowered into the bath," she added.

Humpbacks are one of the largest whale species, growing up to 18 metres (60 foot) long. They are a mainstay of the whale-watching industry in Australia, which is worth an estimated 300 million dollars (246 million US) a year.

(c) 2009 AFP

Explore further: Birds 'weigh' peanuts and choose heavier ones

Related Stories

Biologists to euthanize beached whale

Jan 01, 2008

Marine biologists monitoring a sperm whale stranded at the mouth of Florida's Tampa Bay say euthanizing it is the most humane option.

Whale shark secrets finally revealed

Sep 26, 2005

Researchers in Belize using electronic tagging on whale sharks have finally solved a marine mystery and discovered where the sharks find food.

Photo-monitoring whale sharks

Dec 26, 2007

Up to 20 meters long and weighing as much as 20 tons, its enormous size gives the whale shark (Rhincodon typus) its name. Known as the ‘gentle giant’ for its non-predatory behavior, this fish, with its broad, flattened ...

Recommended for you

Birds 'weigh' peanuts and choose heavier ones

18 hours ago

Many animals feed on seeds, acorns or nuts. The common feature of these are that they have shells and there is no direct way to know what's inside. How do the animals know how much and what quality of food ...

Estuaries protect Dungeness crabs from deadly parasites

May 22, 2015

Parasitic worms can pose a serious threat to the Dungeness crab, a commercially important fishery species found along the west coast of North America. The worms are thought to have caused or contributed to ...

An evolutionary heads-up—the brain size advantage

May 22, 2015

A larger brain brings better cognitive performance. And so it seems only logical that a larger brain would offer a higher survival potential. In the course of evolution, large brains should therefore win ...

Our bond with dogs may go back more than 27,000 years

May 21, 2015

Dogs' special relationship to humans may go back 27,000 to 40,000 years, according to genomic analysis of an ancient Taimyr wolf bone reported in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on May 21. Earlier genome ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.