WOODS HOLE, MASS.—Scientists unveiled rare footage of North Atlantic right whales coming “belly to belly” with each other last week (May 7).
During a joint research trip in Cape Cod Bay, photographer Brian Skerry and scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and New England Aquarium witnessed a group of the endangered whales “hugging with their flippers,” possibly showing affection and attempting to mate.
“The aerial perspective of these behaviors has rarely, if ever, been captured before,” a statement from WHOI, the aquarium and the Conservation Law Foundation said.
The footage was captured by Skerry, a National Geographic photographer, in Cape Cod Bay in February, offering a “unique view of their lives; spending gentle, quiet time together, possibly making new right whales.”
The whales were also seen skim feeding on plankton and nursing a calf.
The scene was a bright spot in a bleak outlook for the whale, which travels up and down the Atlantic. There are less than 400 right whales left on the planet and less than 100 females capable of raising calves.
“This event was full of hope and wonder, and of the urgent need to reduce the trauma that they routinely face, so that they can thrive, and the species recover,” the statement read.
Watch the video here.
Brian Skerry/National Geographic Magazine
Michael Moore/Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution