Humpback Whales Are The 'Hero' of The Great Blue Sea

Categories: Nature

Since the beginning, humans have been the greatest guardian of wildlife.  But recently, scientists have discovered there is a new hero coming to the rescue.

Marine ecologist Robert Pitman observed a particularly dramatic example of this behavior back in 2009, while observing a pod of killer whales hunting a Weddell seal trapped on an ice floe off Antarctica. The orcas were able to successfully knock the seal off the ice, and just as they were closing in for the kill, a magnificent humpback whale suddenly rose up out of the water beneath the seal.  This was no mere accident.

In order to better protect the seal, the whale placed it safely on its upturned belly to keep it out of the water. As the seal slipped down the whale's side, the humpback appeared to use its flippers to carefully help the seal back aboard. Finally, when the coast was clear, the seal was able to safely swim off to another, more secure ice floe.

Source: MNN

The humpbacks aren't only protecting seals, even though there are a number of documented cases where they have.  They have been seen protecting grey whale calves too. So it's unlikely that they are 'protecting a specific species'.

Maternal behavior is described as 'allomaternal care' in the Natural History magazine.  

Source: American Museum of Natural History

Orcas are extremely smart pack hunters that use hunting techniques to circle prey and create waves and ripples in the water to break apart the ice into smaller chunks forcing the prey into the water where they get them.

Source: manfredthimme

But the cetaceans – which are members of the dolphin family – have been known to feed on humpback whale calves, if they have a chance to separate them from their mothers.

To deter their monochrome attackers, the adult humpbacks bellow and crash their enormous flippers and tails into the water.

'This behaviour is viewed as a form of altruism. However, as humpback whales are themselves the subjects of orca attacks and are known to fight back at orcas instead of fleeing, it is thought that this behaviour is a way of humpbacks displaying their dominance to the orcas.'

Source: Daily Mail

Watch how they protect this calf:

 Source: BBC

Pretty amazing!

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