Two pieces of unusual footage have recently been captured, revealing unknown and unusual behaviors in humpback whales, and the independent incidents have given scientists a new window into one of the world’s largest animals.
Earlier this year, a group of divers from Mexico captured rare video of a humpback whale sleeping. Suspended upside down in the water, with its tail pointed to the surface, the whale hangs in place before awaking to take a breath. The diving group, known as Panga MX, filmed the whale while it rose to the surface, before swimming slowly away, as News.com.au noted.
“During a research project throughout January to April 2014 we encountered a sleeping Humpback Whale and managed to get an in water encounter with her,” wrote team member Kieran Bown. “This is a short clip of a 20 minute encounter showing her come up to breath [sic] and check us out.”
Whales are unable to breathe underwater as they are mammals, though unlike humans, they can control their respiration. A single breath can last between 50 minutes and two hours, due to the whale’s natural ability to conserve its energy. While sleeping, researchers have determined that whales are able to rest only one half of their brain at a time, remaining semi-conscious and remembering to breathe.
— Kate Redman Ⓥ (@DolphinSeeker30) October 13, 2014
More recently, another humpback whale was captured on film off the California coast while breaching, seemingly waving its fin at tourists as it narrowly missed a low-flying bird. German photographer Mario Nonaka captured the images, according to The Daily Mail, and was astonished when the humpback appeared to be acknowledging observers on the boat.
— New York Post (@nypost) October 13, 2014
“When it flicked up its right flipper it appeared to be waving at everyone on the boat,” he noted, adding, “It seemed almost effortless for such a big animal to get so high out of the water… I’ve been on about 10 trips around Monterey Bay and never seen anything like this. In the late summer months you are almost guaranteed of seeing breaching whales but this was something else.”
— PROTECT ALL WILDLIFE (@Protect_Wldlife) October 13, 2014
Humpback whales are known to have a close ecological relationship with marine birds, like the startled gull in Nonaka’s photographs. The birds will often be found milling around whales in an attempt to find food.
Earlier this year, a humpback whale in Australia was rescued after it beached itself. As The Inquisitr noted, rescuers worked for nearly two days to point the juvenile male humpback out to sea, before the whale was able to return to deeper water with high tide.
[Image: Mario Nonaka via The Daily Mail]