According to MMRP director Lars Bejder, who took the drone footage in January off the Maui coast, the condition of both mother and baby whale suggests that the little humpback was mere minutes old. [Photos: World's Cutest Baby Wild Animals]
"[Local tour operators] had just seen all this whitewater and commotion in the water and weren't quite sure what it was," Bejder said in a statement from UH. "Suddenly there was all this blood in the water, which made us go over there and that's what we discovered — a newborn calf."
As the baby whale takes its fist "steps," so to speak, you can see how its never-used fins and tail flukes wobble around in the water. Sometimes, Bejder noted, the mama humpback could be seen supporting the baby on its back as they moved through the water together. (That gives "humpback" a new meaning, eh?)
Humpback whales are some of the largest whales on Earth, measuring up to 60 feet (18 meters) long and weighing up to 40 tons (36 metric tonnes). That's big — about the size of a school bus (though still only half as heavy as the biggest mature blue whales). Newborn humpback calves measure about 13 to 16 feet long (4 to 5 m), and tend to spend the first year of their lives traveling alongside mom, according to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). If this newborn calf is a male, he will one day learn to sing — and probably steal other whales' songs.
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Originally published on Live Science.
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Brandon is the space/physics editor at Live Science. His writing has appeared in The Washington Post, Reader's Digest, CBS.com, the Richard Dawkins Foundation website and other outlets. He holds a bachelor's degree in creative writing from the University of Arizona, with minors in journalism and media arts. He enjoys writing most about space, geoscience and the mysteries of the universe.