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Rare Footage Shows Intimate Moment Between Mother Whale And Her Calf

Last month, a group of scientists filmed a rarely seen moment of intimacy between a mother whale and her calf, and they believe it's the first footage of its kind.

Marine ecologist Leigh Torres and a team of researchers were out in a boat off the coast of Taranaki, New Zealand, where they came to study the local population of blue whales, the largest known species living on Earth today, with each whale weighing as much as 400,000 pounds.

They spotted a mother and calf about 100 yards from the boat, so they sent out a drone to get a better glimpse of the whales. "It wasn't until we put the drone up and had that aerial perspective that we could see that they were actually nursing," Leigh told the Taranaki Daily. It's an act she believes nobody has ever captured on film before, certainly not from an aerial view like this.

Scroll down to the bottom of this article to see the incredible footage from National Geographic.

Unlike human infants, whale calves can't breathe and nurse at the same time. As the video shows, the act of feeding requires a bit of a dance from the calf.

"Whales and dolphins have to coordinate breathing with lactation, and what we can see in this video is that the calf is alternating between coming to the surface to breathe and then going under its mom for a period to suckle," Leigh said in the video.

What makes this footage so exciting for Leigh and her research team is that much is still a mystery about how blue whales nurse. "What is thought is that she might actually squirt the milk into the calf's mouth, but we are not really sure," she told a local newspaper.

Although they're by far the biggest animals, there's still so much to learn about these whales with tongues the size of elephants.

Leigh hopes the footage will inspire humans to have a greater appreciation for these magnificent animals.