Underwater shot of blue whale (file)
Precious little is known about the reproductive habits of the blue whale, scientists say. Image by HANDOUT/AUSTRALIAN ANTARCTIC DIVISION
  • environmental issue

Smallest ever baby blue whale captured on camera

Nyk Carnsew July 4, 2024

A baby whale photographed off the WA coast could be the youngest member of its species seen in Australian waters.

A pygmy blue whale calf thought to be only weeks old was spotted with its mother by a wildlife photographer on May 23, the smallest ever observed.

The calf was about one third the size of its mum, about six metres long, whereas the previous smallest calf sighted was about half its mother’s size.

Fully grown pygmy blue whales are typically about 21 metres long.

Very little is known about the species’ reproductive habits, according to Australian Institute of Marine Science researcher Michele Thums.

“No one really knows where pygmy blue whales calve,” she said.

“But here in the Indian Ocean, they are thought to breed and calve at the end of their northward migration off Western Australia’s coast.”

The calf was spotted by photographer Tiffany Klein as part of a research project to tag the elusive animals by the institute alongside the Centre for Whale Research.

Six other pygmy blues were tagged during the trip, which will transmit data on their movements via satellite when they surface to breathe.

Pygmy blue whales are difficult to tag as they move quickly and spend most of their life below the surface.

“They only emerge for a few quick breaths before diving again for 15 to 20 minutes at a time and resurfacing,” Dr Thums said.

“It is really wonderful to have tagged six on this trip, providing us with precious data on their movements.”