Rare Footage Reveals The Courtship Dance Of Pygmy Blue Whales For The First Time

Rare Footage Reveals The Courtship Dance Of Pygmy Blue Whales For The First Time



Remarkable rare footage has been captured of pygmy blue whales in the waters of Timor-Leste, revealing for the first time what it looks like when they try to win a mate – and when they empty their bowels. It comes following a decade-long citizen science project in the region that’s famous for its whale sightings.

The starring whales are pygmy blue whales, a tropical subspecies (Balaenoptera musculus brevicauda) of blue whale that are around 10 meters smaller than the world’s biggest animals, but still one of the largest at a whopping 24 meters (79 feet) long. They are drawn to this part of the world because they complete an annual migration between southern Australia and the Banda Sea, taking them on a 5,000-kilometer (3,107 miles) jolly via the waters of Timor-Leste.

Despite their massive size, we knew relatively little about their reproductive and calving behaviors, which is what makes footage like this so exciting. 

“From newborn calves and nursing mothers to amorous adults in courtship, the waters of Timor-Leste really are providing blue whale scientists with some of our first glimpses into the private lives of one of the world’s largest but most elusive animals,” said leader of the program and marine ecologist, Associate Professor Karen Edyvane of Charles Darwin University, in a statement.

The below footage was captured in 2023 via drone and shows a rare encounter between two pygmy blue whales engaging in intimate courtship. There was also remarkable footage of what happens following such intimate encounters, as a mother whale was seen nursing its calf in a video captured underwater.

Another drone captured the thrilling moment a pygmy blue whale let one rip, sending forth a plume of feces that makes for quite the impressive trail. Capturing defecation on camera might not seem all that exciting on the surface of it, but it tells us that these animals are foraging and feeding in the waters of Timor-Leste.

“Timor-Leste’s deep, nearshore waters, particularly in the narrow Ombai-Wetar Strait along the north coast of the country, provide one of the most accessible and best locations for blue whale research in the world,” continued Edyvane.

“Since 2014, our program has sighted over 2,700 blue whales in Timor-Leste’s waters, monitoring their annual migration along the country’s north coast. On a global level, these numbers are truly extraordinary.”

The collaboration between scientists, tour operators, and fishers has opened up the opportunity to learn so much more about pygmy blue whale’s migration, and it’s hoped that the insights gleaned can inform better conservation of the subspecies moving forward.

The research was presented to the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in April, 2024.



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